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


This story is closed to new comments.


Submitted by Rick from Cincinnati at: March 25, 2009
My experience on the Queen is one that will live forever in my heart. As a young teen musician, I was hired to fill in for the regular organist and calliopie player who fell ill. I had the good fortune of going on several cruises. Home Port was Cincinnati. The majesty of the steamer was remarkable in every possible way. The greatest thrill for me was passing through the locks while playing Stephen Foster tunes on the calliope. Already being loud, the sound would bounce off the walls of the locks amplifying it far more. I remember no greater thrill in my life and everyone present seemed to share my excitement. Words don't do justice. I encourage anyone having any influence with legislators to do what is in your power to get this remarkable historic vessel cruising the inland waterways again.

Submitted by Sharon in Texas at: March 25, 2009
Although is seems only yesterday, it has been fifteen years since my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by sailing from New Orleans up the lazy Mississippi River on the glorious Delta Queen, still one of the fondest memories of my life. We were so fortunate to have a spiritual and poignant journey on this great paddle-wheeler. Please save her for future generations. How I love to recall our lovely little room on the Texas deck, as well as walking about the boat, swinging or rocking the hours away on the deck as we were transfixed by the tales of the riverlorian, listening to the gay calliope as we pulled away from dock, gazing down at that beautiful red rolling paddlewheel, enjoying the remarkable showboat entertainment, mingling with new friends and staff, enjoying the small friendly environment that is only found on small steamboats like the majestic Delta Queen. All these memories and so many more come flooding back as I relive our days on the Delta Queen. The safety of the Queen should not be an issue; we never felt unsafe on board. In fact, our opening drills and room information were far better and more comprehensive than anything we have experienced since on big ships.Please save her. Ah, the history that lives on that paddleboat; the stories she could tell! She is certainly not past her prime, nor is she ready to be put out to pasture. Please save her. The Delta Queen is not just history; she is "living" history. Please save her. Please allow her to continue to give life to the many cities and towns along the great rivers of America. Our memories of our "stop and smell the roses" days on her are remarkable and undimmed. It is our wish that everyone could have the same opportunity to be a part of the Delta Queen magic. Please save her.

Submitted by Penny at: March 25, 2009
I have traveled the world, been on 22 cruises and my dream has always been to travel the great Mississippi on the Delta Queen. Someday, I will, that is if those in Washington DC allow the Historic boat to continue to turn her paddle wheel. A few years ago a person from Europe said to me, "we have things that are preserved in our country, why do you Americans destroy your old things and replace them with new?" Why do we? If the Delta Queen is tied up too long will she not decay faster. Like any machine, they need to keep running. Why was a law that was good enough to have at one time, be overlooked now when our economy needs tourism, needs income from all sources to survive? Hopefully one day, I will be able to lazily cruise down one of our greatest rivers on one of our most historical ships.

Submitted by Arron at: March 24, 2009
I have not had the pleasure to take a trip onboard the Delta Queen. That is due to financial contraints. But that is not the point. I have had the pleasure to see the Delat Queen in Marietta, Ohio. She was on atrip and stopped to allow passengers go into town. It was an absolute thrill to be able to see this American Icon along the shore of Marietta. She has ties to Marietta also. I believe it was Captain Fred WAy Jr. who piloted the Delt Queen in the past. I also know that the Delta Queen served as a Naval Ferry boat the war. That is part of American History. The Delta Queen is a symbol of American History. It was the riverbaots that opened up the frontier. So, now that she has served her purpose, a couple of politicians want to cast her a side? That is wrong on so many levels. The economy is not doing well. A lot of small towns are struggling. The very politicians who are wanting to not extend the service of the Delta Queen are crying the economic blues. Well, have they realized that thier very actions of not allowing the Delta Queen cruise to these towns are impacting the economy of those towns?

Submitted by steve1mate at: March 24, 2009
At 20 years old I started working on the Delta Queen as a deckhand. Through the years I obtained my mate license and have enjoyed a wonderful career on all three of the DQSC boats. The Delta Queen is where my roots are...It was a distinct pleasure to serve as the First Mate on her voyage to Chattanooga in February. While it was a somber event, the crew was a fantastic and dynamic group that held their heads high as the boat steamed her way up the Tenn-Tom River. The final day of cruising was met with many tears and one of the most difficult tie-ups I have made as a mate....It was as if the boat just new what was going on and she wasn't ready!!!! She isn't ready...After 20 years, I get the same feeling of excitement when I step on board....Any millionaires out there want to buy a steamboat????? SOLAS says she can't sail with more than 49 overnight we sail with 49 and do days trips like the old tramp steamers....Where there's a will there's a way...I just wish I could win the Lotto and protect this piece of history. Thanks to everyone for the wonderful messages and continued support...

Submitted by Karen Drowne at: March 23, 2009
Unfortunately, I've never had what I'm sure would be the distinct pleasure of traveling along the MIssissippi River on the Delta Queen. I'd surely like to, and I'd like to take my daughter (12) and nephew (11) with me. I have traveled on her fellow steamboat, the Mississippi Queen, whose fate was quite grim, but that's a different story. The reasons for the exemption not being granted are without merit, and does this amazing part of our country's history infinite wrong. As this item points out, the Delta Queen has traveled on the rivers of this country for decades with no significant mishaps, wooden or not. A dock in Tennessee, no matter how nice -although of course it's better than allowing the boat to sit and rot away- is not where this unique treasure should be. While I think it's lovely that there are people that cared enough to set up a dock for her in Chattanooga, I won't be visiting her there. I will wait until she's cruising on the Mississippi again, as she always should.

Submitted by Carol at: March 23, 2009
While I have never sailed on the Delta Queen, I was planning on it for this year and was going to take my 16 year old grandson with me as he is quite a history buff. I have traveled on the Mississippi Queen, the American Queen and the Queen of the West. I hear the passengers who have sailed on the Delta Queen all giving glowing reports. The Coast Guard says she is safe, but I guess congress has the final word. This boat served in WW II. In this day and time, we need now more than ever to have a part of our history preserved. Please save the Delta Queen.

Submitted by Jim the Carpenter at: March 23, 2009
I was the Ships Carpenter for five mos. finishing up my stay with last trip to NOLA. It was the best five mos of my life. Please bring back this piece of living history back to life.

Submitted by Steve at: March 22, 2009
I am so disappointed that I have not had the opportunity to travel on this fine vessel. I guess I waited 1 year too long to plan a Mississippi River Cruise. Please bring back the Delta Queen!!!

Submitted by Liz at: March 22, 2009
My first memory of the Delta Queen was as a child, seeing her pass my aunt's house on the Ohio River, hearing the calliope, see the passengers. When I got the opportunity to go on board as an adult, it was all I had ever imagined and much, much more. The Delta Queen was instrumental in developing my love of history.

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