River towns working
to improve landings
for possible steamboat stops
Part 2 of 2 (October 2001) Madison, In The annual
treks of the Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and American
Queen steamboats are familiar attractions to many Ohio
River towns, not just for the ones in which they stop
but also for those they pass. Many river town residents
have been able to witness these spectacles of history
from the river banks.
A year ago, Carroll County tourism director
Robin Caldwell received a call from the Delta Queen Steamboat
Co., parent company to the three large boats. The largest
of the three, the American Queen, had initially been scheduled
to make its way up the Mississippi River, but high waters
were preventing it from sailing there. The company opted
to go up the Ohio River instead and told Caldwell they
had selected Carrollton as one of their stops, due to
the fact nearby Madison was holding its annual Regatta
that July weekend.
Being close to the Fourth of July weekend, Carrollton
immediately started to prepare for the visit. The steamboat
was to dock at Point Park, where the Ohio and Kentucky
rivers meet. The gazebo in Point Park was decorated with
red, white and blue bunting and hanging baskets donated
by a local greenhouse.
Citizens from Carrollton and nearby Ghent, Ky., dressed
in 1800s attire. The American Queen docked overnight.
During the daylight hours, many of its passengers took
walking tours of downtown Carrollton.
Caldwell remembered the passengers responses to
the downtown as favorable.
The main comment made was that this was so much
nicer than a large city, said Caldwell. A
lot of people said that they dont go on the trips
to see the large cities but the small river towns.
Caldwell added they were impressed with Carrolltons
One year earlier, Carroll Countians greeted the Delta
Queen steamboat. Carrollton Mayor Ann Deatherage was in
her first year of office and today remembers the positive
efforts made by the town to accommodate the passengers.
We took them on tours around the community and through
the park, said Deatherage.
A lot of our communitys organizations worked
together to make things as comfortable for passengers
and show them what our town had. I got some real good
feedback from them, but we are in such an ideal location
because of both the Ohio and Kentucky rivers.
That same year but on a different voyage the Delta Queen
visited a different park in a different town that was
across the river to the east - Paul Ogle Riverfront Park
in Vevay, Ind. The 285-foot boat docked there while taking
part in a Mystery Cruise. Passengers were not previously
informed of the towns where they would be stopping.
Though area towns have enjoyed visits by these historical
steamboats, many local officials understand why they are
not frequented as much as Madison. Much of it has to do
with what can be seen downtown.
In the towns they stop, the boats want their passengers
to have someplace to shop or a museum, said Caldwell.
You need to have some kind of specialty. The local
people get excited and say, Why cant we get
more boats? But we dont have enough retail
downtown. The thing that is so frustrating is that they
love our downtown, there just arent enough places
Docking and labor is also an issue for many of these river
For us to dock these boats is an event, said
Ann Mulligan, Switzerland Countys tourism director
in Vevay. We tie them up to trees. To dock them
is doable, but we require a lot of preparation. If we
knew they were coming on a regular basis, it would be
something we could accommodate.
Mulligan recalled getting just a few days notice that
the Delta Queen would be coming. Vevay greeted the boat
ceremonial fashion, with city officials presenting the
boat with a flag. The school band also gave a performance
and trolleys provided tours of the town.
Carrollton has also had to make do with its present docking
facilities. Deatherage said that a current Kentucky Renaissance
Project to renovate the sidewalks and building facades
in downtown Carrollton should help. She suggested that
docking improvements could be a possibility for the future.
Rising Sun, Ind., meanwhile, already is taking serious
consideration in the future of their docks and riverfront
access. The town is awaiting word on a state grant that
would improve the walkways to the riverfront.
Right now these large boats cant dock here,
said Tammy Elbright, director of Historic Downtown Rising
Sun. Hopefully, we can get our riverfront squared
out to accommodate them. We feel theres a lot to
see and do in Rising Sun. She added that even though
the riverfront project is in its preliminary stages, it
is something that needs to be consistently addressed,
since the steamboat company books the cruises and stops
two to three years in advance.
The town has played host to smaller riverboats that have
docked. These include the B&B Riverboat, based in
Cincinnati. Local business owners fondly remember the
We got a reasonable number of people coming into
town, said Bill Butterbaugh, who owns the Solar
Flair Art Gallery with his wife, Rosemary. The nice
thing about Rising Sun is that its only a block
or two from the river.
Some Rising Sun shops even sit just 20 feet from the river.
One is Riverfront Krafts, owned by Betty Bollard.
Everybody comes down when (the Delta Queen) goes
by, said Bollard. It would be nice if it stopped
But the decision on where the boats stop is out of the
control of local town officials. All they can do is keep
working to preserve their tourist appeal.
Its going to be hard, since they are reducing
stops to places such as Madison, said Deatherage.
I dont know what were going to do if
they are eliminated. Id hate to see that tradition
gone. I hope they dont stop coming because the younger
people might not ever have a chance to see one.