Attention Mississippi River Watchers -- the Delta Queen will be setting sail again in 2020.
Come next year, the oldest American overnight passenger steamboat is expected to complete its $10 million restoration and owners say it will resume its cruises along the Mississippi and several other rivers.
The Delta Queen has long been a favorite in these parts, with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of spectators lining the banks along the Mississippi as the riverboat made its periodic voyages between St. Louis and St. Paul. Often it would stop for a while to give onlookers a closer look along the banks of La Crosse, Wis., Wabasha and Red Wing.
The Delta Queen, which was built in luxurious fashion for $1 million in 1926, was sidelined in 2008 by a federal law prohibiting overnight excursions on wooden vessels. But it subsequently won an exemption, signed into law by President Trump, which required modifications to the wooden portions of the vessel, most of which are cabins and public areas.
After it was sidelined and prior to the exemption, the Delta Queen was set up in Chattanooga, Tenn., where it operated as a floating hotel. Four years ago, it was bought by the company DQSC, LLC, and the owners began an extensive renewal project to have her sail once again.
Aided by a national Save the Boat campaign, the restoration is nearing its final phases and the owners expect the project will be completed sometime next year.
When it was originally constructed, the Delta Queen boasted Tiffany-style stained glass windows, a grand staircase and crystal chandeliers. In 1940, the ship was used by the Navy to transport soldiers from the bay of San Francisco to boats farther out to sea. Post-war it became a tourist vessel that traveled to ports throughout the midwestern and southern U.S.
So last year, the Delta Queen was authorized by the Coast Guard to legally sail once more as an overnight passenger steamboat once the restoration project is complete.The upgrade will include replacing boilers original to the boat, along with generators, plumbing, the steam line and heating and air conditioning.
The company expects to begin three, five and seven-day cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Arkansas and Illinois rivers, visiting more than 80 ports each year, including St. Paul.