American Queen – Stops & River Sights

Counting the departure and arrival we made six stops along the trip.   They were, Memphis TN (Departure),   New Madrid MO,  Padukah KY,  Cape Giraradeau MO,  Chester IL, and St. Louis MO (Destination).

Because of the shut down of the older Riverboats in 2008 most of the small towns along the route have declined due to the loss of Riverboat tourists.  Now that the AQ is back in service many of these places are starting to revive but it is obviously a slow process and what we saw was a number of boarded-up shops around the docking area.


We flew into Memphis on Wed, 06/27 and immediately went to our hotel.  We learned that Hillary Clinton would be delivering a speech the next day directly across the street!  Luckily she was finished before we had to get out to the boat.

The hotel was fine (Marriott) but there were a few timing issues.  Checkout was at noon but we would not be taken to the boat until after 3pm.  On top of that the hotel bars/restaurants did not open until 1:30pm or later.    Finally we walked a couple of blocks to a unique  little bar/restaurant called Westy’s. They had a friendly, small-town atmosphere and an extensive menu.  I had the Chicken & Dumplings and was oohing, aahing and yumming through the whole meal.  There was a good beer and wine selection too.

New Madrid MO

Our first stop (after two days ‘Steamboating’) was the site (approximately) of the famous New Madrid (pronounced Mad-Drid) Earthquake  (1812-1813).  This town has lots of historical building and interesting architecture but very little shopping remains open, particularly on a Saturday.

Here is the AQ at the levee in New Madrid.  You can’t tell from the picture but it is actually quite a steep climb from the water level.  They had golf carts to assist those with limited mobility.


Here is one of the many beautiful old homes along the pleasant streets of New Madrid.  Several of them were built from Cyprus wood which resists termites and lasts a long time in the climate.


Padukah KY

Again, the lack of river boat traffic has taken its toll on the riverfront businesses here.  Plus, since we were there on a Sunday, many were closed for the day.

Padukah is known for the National Quilt Museum which hosts 40,000 visitors a year.  Besides exhibits they have educational programs and gatherings of quilters annually.

Here is how it looked as we approached the landing at Padukah.    Of the two barges on the right, the one without the crane on it was actually a floating concert stage.  It was probably brought in for the July 4th celebration coming up.

One interesting thing about the flood-wall mural project which involved painting historic scenes of along the concrete wall which protects the town from exceptionally high water. The murals are on the town side of the wall though some impromptu ones are on the river side.

Cape Giraradeau, MO

The stop at Cape Giraradeau was on Monday so more of the shops were open.  Unfortunately they had a major street construction going on and one of the more important roads was blocked off, even the sidewalks.

Here, as in Padukah, the flood walls had nice murals painted on them, even on the river side of the wall.


One of the first things you see when you got through the flood wall gate is this beautiful old brick courthouse.



Another sign that the steamboat traffic on the river has been missed was the large crown of people who came down to the river to look at the American Queen and take pictures.



Chester, IL

This stop was an unscheduled one and we were told that the Captain did not want to arrive in St. Louis too early.  Probably some problem associated with the docking space.

Chester was a small town and high up on the bluffs.  As far as I could tell its only claim to fame was The Popeye Museum.  (Their web site is a little garish and hard to navigate but if you are a Popeye fan you may enjoy it.)

Jan and I had expected another solid day of steamboating rather that a stop, so we stayed aboard the AQ instead of touring the town/museum.  While waiting to get underway again we had a little excitement.  When the boat is moored they run a fire hose ashore to top off their fresh water supply.  Apparently a semi went over the hose and caused it to burst and draining a lot of fresh water into the river.

River Sights

Jan I both enjoyed seeing the sights along the river, both day and night.  Here is one of the numerous lock and dam installations.  This one down-river from Padukah.  I enjoyed watching the operation of them – but that’s the engineer in me.  Not the huge coal barge in the other lock.  They had to separate it int two parts to pass through.

Here is one of the many barges we encountered on the river.  This one appears to be carrying some liquid cargo.  It is relatively small compared to some we saw which can be up to four units wide and six units long.  This one is, if I count properly, two by four.

The river was quite low (we were told nine feet in places) and after the floods last year there were huge sandbars everywhere.   If it hadn’t been so hot this would have been a great place for a huge beach party!


St. Louis

This stop is covered in the posts on Fireworks and The Airshow.