MADISON, Ind. (June 2004) About 60 second-graders from Scipio
Elementary School anxiously boarded the Delta Queen steamboat during
one of its stops in May in Madison, Ind. Their teacher, Angie Carnahan,
had requested an impromptu tour of the vessel after a field trip to
Clifty Falls State Park was unexpectedly canceled due to closed roads.
2004 Indiana cover
"They usually dont do this they are doing
us a big favor, Carnahan said, relieved to have something educational
to occupy the children during their visit to Madison.
Not that educational opportunities in Madison are hard to come by,
but the chance to tour a floating landmark doesnt come along
every day. Built in 1926 in Stockton, Calif., the Delta Queen was
in 1970 listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in
1989 was officially designated a National Historic Landmark.
Operated as a ferry boat between San Francisco and Sacramento from
1927 to 1940, and used during World War II as a U.S. Navy yard ferry
in San Francisco Bay, the Delta Queen was purchased in 1947 by the
Greene Line Steamboat Co. It was brought from the Sacramento River
to the Mississippi River by way of the Panama Canal, becoming the
first riverboat to pass through the canal.
At 285 feet in length and 60 feet in width, the Delta Queen is the
smallest of three steam-powered, paddlewheel riverboats now operated
by the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. of New Orleans. It and the companys
other two steamboats, the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen,
can occasionally be seen anchored on the river in Madison. The American
Queen, which is 418 feet long, 89 feet, four inches wide, and 97.5
feet tall (including its stacks), is the largest steamboat ever built,
according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Although it is the smallest of the three steamboats, the Delta Queen
provides plenty of room for up to 174 passengers with four decks and
87 staterooms. Public areas include the Texas Lounge, which features
a wood-paneled bar and gathering area, the Forward Cabin Lounge, which
features a Victorian parlor complete with Tiffany-style stained glass
windows and crystal chandeliers, the Betty Blake Lounge, which is
a quiet retreat with paintings of figures from the Delta Queens
history, and the Orleans dining room.
Outfitted in old-fashioned elegance with antique furnishings, the
Queen may look like a remnant of the past but is actually high-tech
when it comes to operating systems. GPS, radar, and as of May 20,
an Automatic Identification System required by homeland security,
are all part of the boats modern equipment, said Capt John Sutton,
who piloted the boat into Madison on May 3. Other contemporary features
include fire, smoke and heat detection systems as well as a sprinkler
The Delta Queen has made many trips up and down the Ohio and other
rivers. Among its passengers have been President Jimmy Carter and
Rosalyn Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, actress Helen Hayes and U.S. Supreme
Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor.
Madison has for some time been included on the Delta Queens
itinerary. Passengers seem to enjoy the towns history and variety
of interesting downtown shops. Many head toward Main Street with cameras
in hand and return to the boat with shopping bags of souvenirs.
I think our passengers enjoy Madison because it offers so many
things for them to see, Delta Queen Steamboat Co. marketing
manager Lucette Brehm said by telephone from her office in New Orleans.
Downtown merchants also enjoy the riverboats travelers. We
think we see the people from the boats, by and large. We try to encourage
them (to come in and shop), said Madison Business and Professionals
Association president Dennis Anderson. One way Anderson and other
merchants have encouraged business from the riverboats is by drawing
for a gift basket of items from various downtown stores. Travelers
just stop by each participating store to register to win, and at the
end of the day a name is drawn and the basket is given away on board
Because the steamboat travelers are often looking for souvenirs of
Madison or books to read during their trips, Anderson stocks at his
Cover to Cover Bookstore a variety of Madison postcards and souvenirs,
and local interest books. Other downtown stores do the same.
Penny Estes of San Antionio, Texas, purchased fish candy from Mundts
Candies and beaded necklaces from GG 1 Of A Kind Custom Jewelry during
the steamboats May visit. Estes and husband, Grant, were traveling
aboard the Delta Queen for the second time. Im a history
buff, so I wouldnt sail on anything but the National Historic
Landmark, said Estes, who owns The Christmas House Bed &
Breakfast in San Antonio.
Another passenger, John Patrick, sat peacefully on the sun deck, while
others wandered around downtown. Patrick, who happens to live in downtown
Madison, was enjoying his second trip aboard the Delta Queen. This
boats authenticity is terrific, said Patrick, who was
visited in port by his daughter, Heather Adler, also of Madison.
Anderson said he often hears positive comments from the riverboat
passengers. They love (Madison), and they like the architecture
and the fact that theres a vibrant downtown, he said.
They say that either theyll come back or they wish they
could spend a longer time here. We dont think theyre saying
that just to be kind.
The Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen will make a combined 11 stops
in Madison this year. In addition to staying as late as 4 p.m. (the
boat generally departs at noon) for a couple of trips in August, the
boats excursion activities also will be expanded. Added in Madison
will be a motorcoach tour that will take passengers to visit the Schroeder
Saddletree Factory, Madison Vineyards located on the hilltop and Mundts
For more information about the Delta Queen and the
Delta Queen Steamboat Co. visit www.deltaqueen.com.