published Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Steamboat waiting for Mississippi to rise

Low water forced the American Queen to dock on the north side of Mud Island in Memphis, Tenn. Thursday August 9, 2012, till it can continue its voyage to Vicksburg, Miss.
Low water forced the American Queen to dock on the north side of Mud Island in Memphis, Tenn. Thursday August 9, 2012, till it can continue its voyage to Vicksburg, Miss.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

MEMPHIS — The American Queen steamboat is docked in Memphis, unable to paddle on down the Mississippi River because of low water.

A trip that began Aug. 3 at Louisville, Ky., was cut short well before the steamboat's destination of Vicksburg, Miss.

American Queen Steamboat Co.'s Tim Rubacky said that navigation problems caused by sluggish river flow make it unwise for the Queen to go any farther south than Helena, Ark. The decision to lay up at Memphis was made after talking with the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.

About 58 passengers remained aboard Thursday night. About 240 others went on to Vicksburg by bus.

Low water levels in the Mississippi are the result of a combination of high temperatures and lack of rain and snow farther north of Memphis.

The American Queen is in her inaugural sailing season. Overnight riverboat trips on the Mississippi River had been suspended for years until the American Queen began making trips in April.

Rubacky said it's not certain if this trip will make it to Helena, which means guests can go to Helena by bus or spend an extra day in Memphis.

"You can't control the river," Rubacky said. "You literally do have to just go with the flow. You make alternate plans to the best of your abilities and you put the guest experience first."

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