Delta Queen one step closer to sailing again

The U.S. Senate commerce committee has approved legislation critical to getting the historic Delta Queen sailing again.

The bill — S.89 — would exempt old vessels operating on inland waters from current fire hazard restrictions if the owners make annual alterations to at least 10% of the areas not constructed of fire-retardant materials.

“I’m determined to bring the Delta Queen home to the St. Louis region where she belongs so Missourians and tourists in ports up and down the river will be able to experience the long and rich history of this steamboat,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D.-Mo., who co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Roy Blunt, R.-Mo. Other sponsors represent Ohio, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Similar moves have stalled in the past. Legislation cleared the committee last year, and a McCaskill spokesman said they are optimistic they’ll be successful in this Congress.

A similar bill (H.R. 619) subsequently was introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. A spokesman said they hope they will have the same level of bipartisan support in the Senate as in the House, where it passed 280-89 two sessions ago.

The 1926 paddlewheeler, now docked in Houma, La., was expected to be homeported in Kimmswick, Mo., a small town about 25 miles south of St. Louis.

Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the steamboat on its 2016 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The vessel was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989 and a National Treasure by the trust in 2013.

The legislation is important for obtaining commercial financing for much of the estimated $5 million needed for restoration and renovation of the boat that has a wood and steel superstructure. The 176-passenger vessel, which had been kept alive with a series of exemptions, stopped sailing in 2008 when Majestic America Line shut down.

Cornel Martin, an executive with an earlier Delta Queen operator, and partners bought the Delta Queen in 2015 for an undisclosed sum and hoped to have it sailing again last year to take advantage of the renaissance in U.S. river and coastal cruising.


About the author

Dale K. DuPont

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.


  1. Avatar
    Robert Stanley on

    Those who prattle on about the historical significance of the old tub have not done their homework. Constructed in Scotland, assembled in California to run on the Sacramento River delta, the tub has no historical connection to the halcyon days of Mississippi River packets which mostly were SIDE-WHEELERS. And fire safety or lack thereof is only 1 significant problem for the tub. DELTA QUEEN lacks the floodable length integrity required for all USA passenger craft. 1 hole in the hull and she sinks to the bottom. Oops, not good.

    • Avatar

      Do you work for a competition boat, Robert? Like the FAKE Queen of the Mississippi? Perhaps it is YOU that should do your homework and read the Saga of the Delta Queen. She spent most of her life on the Mississippi and there she should stay. Don’t want to cruise on here? Then don’t buy a ticket. She’s had a near perfect safety record. Shut your pie hole Robert!

  2. Avatar
    John Misheff on

    Dear Mr. Stanley:
    I’m confused as to why the fact that the hull was fabricated in Scotland and the vessel finished in California makes her any less historically significant. In service since 1927, served the Navy during WW2, and plying the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys since 1949, and the last remaining steam powered paddle wheeler, if that doesn’t make her historically significant I’m not sure what would. Perhaps you didn’t grow up along the banks of the Ohio River listening to her calliope as she came around the bend. I did, and it would be a tragedy for her not to be preserved.

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