Delta Queen Steamboat

, Tennessee

Built in 1927, the Delta Queen is America's last remaining overnight paddle-wheeled steamboat still operating on the inland waterways.  She is a designated National Historic Landmark and has a storied past, including steamer passage on the Sacramento River and service as troop barracks during World War II.  Her interior features Tiffany-style stained glass, hardwood paneling, brass fittings, and a grand staircase crowned by a crystal chandelier.  Since 1948 the Delta Queen has plied the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, with festive stops at communities along the way.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation has offered tours aboard Delta Queen for many years.

Because of her wooden superstructure, the Delta Queen has operated under a statutory exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea Act since the late 1960s, and extensive safety precautions had been implemented by her owners.  The exemption had been granted nine times previously, but it expired in November 2008, limiting the number of overnight passengers the Delta Queen can carry to 50, rather than her capacity of 176. 

On February 11th, the Delta Queen arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to begin service as a floating hotel.  This is good news for the boat, keeping her maintained and open to the public, but is only a temporary solution.  The Delta Queen's significance rests on her service as an operating vessel, plying America's inland waterways as she has since 1927.  For more information, visit:

The legendary Delta Queen, whose distinctions include a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, is no longer taking travelers down the mighty Mississippi. From its late 19th-century steam calliope to its grand staircase, this 80 year old grande dame has delighted the generations that have graced her decks. National Trust for Historic Preservation Tours has a long history with this famous steamboat. The very first tour offered to  National  Trust members was aboard this illustrious paddlewheeler almost 40 years ago.    

We encourage you to share your memories of the Delta Queen.  Whether you joined us on a National Trust Study Tour, or planned your own trip on this majestic steamboat, we'd like to hear your stories of traveling down the mighty Mississippi.

Tell Us About Your Experiences on the Delta Queen


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Submitted by Rebecca at: June 25, 2009
My friend Dorothy and I sailed on the Delta Queen in 2000, because it was one of her wishes of things to do before her lung cancer took her. We had such a memorable time, sat at the captain's table with Captain Gabe and he danced with Dorothy which was the cat's meow. I still smile when I see her whirling around the wood floor of the stately Delta Queen, with a look of incredible joy on her face. Thank you to all the crew of the Delta Queen for my special memories. It is sad that she is not still sailing.

Submitted by Charles McCaslin at: May 30, 2009
I worked on the Delta Queen when it was used as a cruis from N.O. She means alot to me!!!

Submitted by Annie at: May 28, 2009
One cold, misty evening in November, 1969, I took my two year old son Stevie down to the levy in St. Paul, Minnesota, to watch the Delta Queen leave port for what was supposed to be her last voyage due to the wooden hull. I love that grand dame! Anyway we watched as the "swells" in fur coats boarded. The people along the upper deck waved to those of us on shore. Then she left port and we watched her turn around on the Mississippi. She just about filled the whole river with her size. The caliope began playing "Dixie" as she left port. My son and I raced to our car and drove up to Mounds Boulevard on the east side of St. Paul and from there watched the Delta Queen head down river. Her lights were all ablaze. Thankfully the steamboat was saved, until now. I have plans when I retire to take a cruise on her down to Natchez and other points. I want to see the river and imagine hearing "mark twain." Please save her again. For me. Thanks for reading this. It is a grand memory of mine.

Submitted by Mike and Ginny at: May 26, 2009
Is this another piece of Americana to fall into faint memory that's but a vague recollection of what it was, as ill-informed politicos legislate away more and more of our nation's history, traditions, as well as our personal freedoms? In a current climate where change is good and new is better, will they not rest until all memories of the Old South are dead and buried? The Delta Queen, with what was her very capable ownership and crew has served America's waterways for 82 memorable years without any need of regulatory interference. We've taken her from Galveston to New Orleans on the Inter-coastal waterway. How do you describe what it feels like to someone who will never have this opportunity to see and feel the sights and sounds of the river, the swamps and bayous - as they are today or were when 'cotton was king along the Mississippi ' - as you look out the stern window of your mahogany paneled stateroom and listen to the steam of the smoke stacks and the churning paddlewheel and watch the full moon rising over the trailing wake the Queen make as she steams upriver? It would be a shame to deny the opportunity to have this experience....

Submitted by Gayle at: May 15, 2009
I grew up in Jeffersonville, In, which is across from Louisville, Ky. Louisville has always been a regular stop for the Queen. A s a child we would hear her whistle telling us she was in town. My mother would drive us down to the river to see her. When I got older my friends and I would climb on top of the levy which was high enough for us to see her head up river. I can remember laying in bed at night and in the quiet I would suddenly hear her engines pushing her up the river. She has a distinct sound that if you know her, you will recognize her. My parents always talked of taking a trip on her, but never did. My husband and I had planned on taking a cruise on the Delta Queen for our 40th weddiing aniversary, which is this coming July. Thank goodness I read about possibly docking her last year. Fortunately, we were able to take a cruise last June from Cinncinati to Pitsbourgh. What a special trip. I have so many wonderful memories, our waiters, who kept us laughing during meal time, the wonderful food, the new friends we found and still communicate with. I know this can happen on Ocean cruises, but the fact that this was a small ship was great. Every town we came to, people lined the river to wave. These small communities are losing much, but not have the Delta Queen plying the river. In particular, one night a group of us had walked up on deck. We could see a campfire and hear children laughing. In a moment, we could see a flashlight bobbing toward town. In a flash there were flashlights waving at us and the townspeople calling out, wanting to know where we were from. History was repeating itself. Children and adults having been doing the same thing since the Delta Queen started traveling up and down the Ohio and Mississippi. I am so sorry this memory will die out because the Congress is infighting and acting like spoiled childfren. This ship has been given a reprieve for at least 20 years. She is shipshape and safe. Probably much safer the hotels we stay in. I hope someone can help to keep her on the river that has influence with congress.

Submitted by Mary Westheimer at: May 8, 2009
I worked on the Delta Queen as a maid shortly after she got her first exemption so she could continue plying the inland waterways (as she should be able to do still!). There were not many jobs for women then. You could be a maid or a salad girl, and since I wanted to keep all of my fingers (being on the clumsy side) I opted for the former. Maids cleaned rooms in the morning, then turned down the beds at night. We worked 7 days a week for weeks on end, then could take a vacation of a week or so. Because we were so immersed in the culture on the boat, going ashore when the boat would come into a port was always interesting. I found it difficult to interact with others, and often, out of sheer habit, brushed away any dust I'd spy and even occasionally found myself putting books of matches in empty ashtrays. Many exciting things happened while I was working on board, including the time Vic Stadtmiller, a long-time deckhand, drove the boat's VW off the forward deck - in reverse. Vic not only couldn't drive, he couldn't swim, but made it back safely nonetheless. I also recall a riverside baptism, and loved visiting the old plantations and Natchez, Mississippi. Coming ashore from such a stately boat made it possible to believe we were in a bygone era. One of my most vivid memories was having to abandon ship in the shipyard in Louisiana. This was after the DQ had been retrofitted with a new boiler system. The system backfired, and Gabriel Chengery (sp?), the first mate, who was in charge at the time, asked us all to abandon ship. We had to go right by the boiler to do so. Later, the Captain made Gabe (who had his tail firmly between his legs) explain what had happened. I have many other wonderful memories, and only hope this grand lady can once again ply the rivers she once ruled.

Submitted by Skotfre at: May 2, 2009
My husband and I have cruised on the DQ two times. The first time was in June, 2004 from Memphis to St. louis, and again last year (2008) from Cincinatti to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. My mother and father cruised on her many times from Sacramento to San Francisco on the Sacramento River during the 20s & 30s.She is a very safe cruise ship, and I am sad to see her removed from cruising. The Delta Queen's sister, the Delta King, is a floating hotel in Old Sacramento. She is still on the Sacramento River. The King's operating parts are what helps keep the Queen steaming.

Submitted by Wheels at: April 30, 2009
I have never seen the Delta Queen before but I have learned a lot about the Delta Queen. I can't believe that people want the Delta Queen to stop running. I bet that the Delta Queen has at least 10 more years in her if she is taken care of even though she is 82 years old. And someday, I want to be able to go on the Delta Queen for a few nights. LONG LIVE THE DELTA QUEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Steamboatin' Suzi at: April 28, 2009
I've been lucky enough to cruise many times on the Delta Queen, and it breaks my heart to see her no longer cruising. In 86 years she has never had a serious accident, and fears about her safety are unfounded. What a beautiful piece of American History we have - she should be allowed to sail again!

Submitted by JSiminski at: April 27, 2009
I have never been on the Delta Queen, but I have always dreamed of taking a ride on her down the river, as she has done for so many years. The Delta Queen is an essential, unique, and truly American landmark, which must not be lost. We must do all we can to make sure she continues to ply the waters of our famous river.

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