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Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler Cruise in Fairbanks

Get a taste of the colorful history and cultural traditions in the great interior region of alaska..

sternwheeler riverboat

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Home » City-Based Day Tours » Fairbanks » Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler Cruise in Fairbanks

Day Tour Details

What's included:.

  • Narrated tour onboard the Riverboat Discovery III
  • All taxes and fees

What's Not Included:

Meals and transfers to and from your hotel.

Riverboat Discovery Cruise Experience: Take a Video Tour:

Dates & Rates

Contact us to book this tour..

Thank you for your interest in this tour! At this time, it is not currently available to book online. Please feel free to continue to peruse our website for more Alaska travel ideas. If you would like options and information from our team of Alaska experts, please call 1-866-317-3325 or fill out the form below.

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Alaska Tours in Anchorage did an outstanding job with our recent trip. There wasn't a glitch on any part of this itinerary. We had vouchers for hotels, trains, cruises and attractions. My first time using a company like this and it was an awesome experience for all of us.

Patricia | Trip Advisor

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Riverboat Discovery Cruise in the fall.

  • Riverboat Discovery Cruise Fairbanks

Climb aboard a classic Chena River sternwheeler to experience the living history of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Guests can enjoy a Dog Sled demonstration from on board the Riverboat Discovery.

  • Things to Do in Fairbanks

More Details

Rates & dates, departure times, availability.

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For decades, riverboats like the Discovery III sternwheeler ran the big rivers of Alaska's interior. They hauled freight and passengers, linked distant communities and helped build new ones. Today the boat takes visitors on a unique tour to explore that history and see firsthand some of Alaska's quintessential pastimes.

Experience some of Alaska's quintessential pastimes.

The stately Discovery III has three decks with comfortable indoor seating, and a fourth top deck with open-air seating. The large red paddlewheel splashing at the stern propels the boat on its journey down the Chena River. It's right on the water shortly after leaving Steamboat Landing that guests see their first Alaskan demo. A bushplane on floats takes off alongside the boat, banking in a long arc until it loops back and lands again. The pilot talks about the wild life of bush flying in Alaska before the boat continues downstream. The next stop is an exuberant sled dog demo at the riverside kennels of late four-time Iditarod musher Susan Butcher.

Upon reaching the confluence of the Chena and Tanana Rivers, guests disembark for a walking tour of a Chena Indian Village. Native Alaskan guides lead groups to see spruce cabins, caches, smokehouses, and crafts created by Athabascans native to interior Alaska. After spending time further exploring the village on their own, guests board the boat for a return ride up the Chena River.

The Riverboat Discovery Cruise includes a bush plane demo, sled dog demo, and Chena Indian Village tour. There is a small giftshop and galley selling snacks, drinks, ice cream, and hearty lunch boxes on the boat. The tour returns to the Steamboat Landing where guests can visit the Discovery Trading Post, the largest Alaskan souvenir shop in Fairbanks .

What to Bring

Wear comfortable clothes and dress in layers. Most of the tour is conducted outside, so bring a light coat or rain jacket if necessary.

Special Instructions

Guests must check in at the Steamboat Landing station at least 30 minutes prior to the tour departure to exchange their voucher for a boarding pass.

Transfers & Meeting Points

The Riverboat Discovery Cruise is just five minutes from the Fairbanks airport and 20 minutes from downtown Fairbanks. Many local hotels offer shuttles to the Riverboat Discovery. Guests must coordinate their own transportation to the tour.

Riverboat Discovery Cruise 1975 Discovery Drive Fairbanks, Alaska 99709

Here are the rates and operating dates for this product. Remember, we have a lowest price guarantee for nearly everything we sell.

Child rates apply to children under the age of 13. Infants under the age of 2 may travel for free but must sit on an adult's lap.

Dates Adult Child Infant
6/1/24 (Sa) to 8/31/24 (Sa)6/1/24 (Sa) to 8/31/24 (Sa) Adult: $90.00 Child: $49.95 Infant: $0.00

Departure times and locations are listed below. Click on a link for an interactive map.

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Depart Location
Depart: 8:45 AM Location:
Depart Location
Depart: 2:00 PM Location:

SHOW MAP >

With the 2021 summer season still taking shape, some tour providers may not yet have their operating dates set. Availability on AlaskaTravel.com reflects the most current information and is updated daily. Please contact us if you have questions about this tour.

Select a departure below to see current availability. If your desired date is sold out (red) we will do our best to find an alternative, but we may not be able to accommodate your request.

Book Now >

Quick Facts

  • Duration 3 Hours
  • Options AM, PM
  • Operating Dates Daily from 6/1/2024 to 8/31/2024
  • Activity Level Less Active

What's Included

  • Guided tour through an Athabascan village.
  • Passage on a classic sternwheeler riverboat.
  • Bush plane and sled dog demonstrations.
  • Complimentary coffee and fresh donuts.

Guest Feedback

"We loved this! They made what might look like an ordinary river come alive! This was in our "Top 3 Attractions" list!"

~Ron from Illinois~

Photo Gallery

Enjoy a Alaskan salmon smoking demonstration from the Riverboat Discovery.

sternwheeler riverboat

RiverBoat Discovery Information

sternwheeler riverboat

DINING OPTIONS

We have various dining options on Steamboat Landing and Discovery III:

sternwheeler riverboat

CHENA VILLAGE LIVING MUSEUM

Be immersed in frontier living first hand with a guided walking tour of an Athabascan village. You’ll see an Athabascan  village with cabins made of spruce logs, a cache used for storing supplies, a primitive spruce bark hut and fur pelts. Our guides will explain how the wolf, fox, martin and beaver were used to provide food and protection in the harsh Arctic climate. They will also share how the Athabascans skillfully survived for over 10,000 years and how they adapted to village life and Western culture in the past century.

At the end of your guided tour, you will have time to explore the village on your own, interact with our guides and visit dogs from Susan Butcher’s Trail Breaker Kennel.

sternwheeler riverboat

INTERNATIONAL SCRIPTS

A family business

The Binkley family’s steamboating tradition goes back over 100 years and five generations. In 1898, when Charles M. Binkley hiked over the Chilkoot Pass with other stampeders, he was not so much in search of gold as he was the chance to build and operate boats on the Yukon and its tributaries. He became a respected pilot and boat builder in the North. His son, Captain Jim Binkley, Sr., followed in his father’s footsteps and piloted freight vessels on the Yukon and Tanana Rivers in the 1940's.

As transportation systems changed in the north, railroads and airplanes began to carry much of the freight. In 1950, noting the coming changes in the freighting business, Captain Jim and his wife, Mary, began a river excursion business focusing on sharing their love of Alaska and its culture with visitors. Over the coming years, Captain Jim and Mary B’s business grew from the Godspeed, a 25 passenger vessel, to the Discovery III, a 900 passenger vessel. Today, Captain Jim’s grandchildren run the company and Mary B is still active in the business.

In addition to growing their sternwheel business, the Binkley’s have added a gold mining attraction: Gold Dredge 8. The family has developed a tour in the heart of the gold fields where the first gold strikes attracted miners from the Klondike. They have incorporated large scale industrial mining and the smaller 'Mom and Pop' side of mining into an all-encompassing tour that also features the Trans Alaska Pipeline and a replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad.

sternwheeler riverboat

1975 Discovery Drive Fairbanks, AK 99709

1-866-479-6673

907-479-6673

[email protected]

Feedback Page

Gold Dredge 8

Captain Jim's Salmon

Adventure Green Alaska

Alaska Travel Industry Association

Explore Fairbanks

PVA Green Waters

Trip Advisor

Trail Breaker Kennel

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  • Call toll-free until 8pm EDT
  • 617-223-4521 617-223-4119 or
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Dried fish, riverboat discovery tour

Sternwheeler Riverboat Tour

Board an authentic sternwheeler riverboat for a cruise on the Chena and Tanana Rivers. This three hour tour will take you into the heart of Alaska and the heart of a family who has made the rivers of Alaska a way of life for four generations.

You will see a bush plane taking off from a grass runway, witness the "wedding of the rivers", and gain an insight into the ancient Athabascan native culture. Native Alaskan guides who have worked and lived in Alaska will take you on a personal tour of the Chena Indian Village.

Matt, an Audley Travel specialist

Start planning your tailor-made trip by contacting one of our Alaska specialists

  • 617-223-4521 617-223-4119
  • Make an inquiry

Other experiences in Fairbanks

These activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences around where you're staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident's eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can suggest tours and activities that will introduce you to the local ways of life.

Arctic flightseeing

Barrow Community

Together with your fellow travelers you start the Barrow sightseeing tour where you witness ceremonies and traditions of the native culture as you tour the Inupiat Heritage Center, a National Park Service affiliated site.

Experience it for yourself

You can enjoy this activity as part of the suggested tours below, or we can weave it into a trip shaped entirely around you.

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Aurora Borealis over Fairbanks, Alaska

Alaska's northern lights by train

7 days from $3,545pp

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Destinations Detours and Dreams

Cruising Through Alaska History and Culture Aboard a Sternwheeler

Riverboat Discovery sternwheeler excursion in Fairbanks, Alaska

Riverboat Discovery excursion along the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska

(Disclosure: Thanks to Explore Fairbanks for hosting my stay in Fairbanks. Observations and opinions, as always, are my own.)

Staff stand on the dock at Steamboat Landing in Fairbanks, Alaska and wave at us as we sail away on the sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery for a 3-hour narrated cruise along the Chena River.

Staff waving us off as we being our sternwheeler excursion aboard the Riverboat Discovery in Fairbanks, Alaska

A sternwheeler is a ship propelled by a paddle wheel positioned at the stern. Sternwheelers played a major transportation and freight role in Alaska in the late 1800s and first part of the 1900s. At one time there were 250 sternwheelers on Alaska rivers, 91 on the Chena. Powered by wood furnaces, they would use one cord of wood an hour. The current Riverboat Discovery is a tourist excursion boat powered by diesel, but it has a strong connection with the past.

The boat is owned and operated by descendants of Charles M. Binkley, who started building and piloting boats in the North in 1898. In the 1950s, with railroads and airplanes beginning to carry most of the freight, his son Captain Jim Binkley Sr. and his wife Mary started a river excursion business. It was their granddaughter piloting the Riverboat Discovery the day of my cruise.

Float Plane

Float plane demonstration for the Riverboat Discovery tour in Fairbanks, Alaska

Bush planes, landing with floats on the water in summer and with skis on snow in winter, were and still are another important transportation vehicle in the North. Shortly after leaving the dock, we were treated to a demonstration of a float plane taking off and landing.

Trail Breaker Kennel

Before the use of snow mobiles, called “snow machines” in Alaska, dogsledding was a common method of winter travel used by indigenous peoples and early European settlers and trappers. Although dog teams are no longer used much for travel or moving goods, dogsledding has become a popular winter sport. The Iditarod dogsled race, which was created in the 1970s partly to save dog sled culture, has contributed to its popularity. The race runs between Anchorage and Nome. The more grueling Yukon Quest, which runs between Whitehouse in Canada’s Yukon and Fairbanks, started in 1984.

Trail Breaker Kennel of sled dogs in Fairbanks, Alaska

Susan Butcher was a four-time Iditarod race winner, winning her first race in 1986 and winning again in 1987, 1988, and 1990. She passed away in 2006, but her family still operates Trail Breaker Kennel, one of the longest operating kennels in Fairbanks where visitors experience the Alaskan mushing lifestyle. We paused at the banks of the kennel to see some of the dogs and learn about dog sledding from Susan’s husband.

Puppy training at Trail Breaker Kennel in Fairbanks, Alaska

Chena Village

The only place where we stopped and disembarked on the cruise was at a recreated Chena Athabascan Indian Village from the early 1900s. Captain Jim Binkley Sr. supplied villages like this by sternwheeler from the late 1930s through the 1950s. Guides at Chena Village explained how various animals were used for food and protection (clothing and shelter), how Athabascans survived nomadic life and how they adjusted to village life. Dogs from Susan Butcher’s kennels were also on site for those who wanted to get closer to the animals and learn more about them.

Athabascan cache house at Chena Village, Fairbanks, Alaska

On The River

Caribou herd along the Chena River in Alaska

As we cruised the river, we passed a variety of log cabins, old and new, large and small, on properties along the shore. We saw a herd of caribou (a planned sighting as this is a domestic herd) and a bald eagle along the shore (unplanned sighting).

Junction of the Chena and Tanana Rivers in Alaska

We turned around at the point where the Chena River joins the Tanana River. The Tanana River is a 584-mile tributary of the Yukon River. The Tanana River is a braided river, something I’d not heard of until I visited Alaska. A braided river consists of a network of river channels that continually split and join and are separated by small and often temporary islands. Braided rivers are typically wide and shallow and carry a lot of sediment.

View of Binkley home from the Chena River

Steamboat Landing

At Steamboat Landing, where the Riverboat Discovery docks and sets sail from, you’ll find a gift shop and Discovery Dining Hall, where a hearty lunch of miner’s stew, rustic roasted vegetables, apple pecan salad, sourdough rolls and a brownie is served family style at long tables.

People lining up for the Alaska @ 40 Below Experience at Steamboat Landing

Here you’ll also find the Alaska @ 40 Below Experience, where you have a chance to enter a specially designed chamber to experience what -40 degree temperatures feel like. I did not join the line-up for what looked like the entrance to the locker plant at the butcher shop in my childhood hometown, where my family rented a locker to store frozen vegetables and sides of meat before we had our own freezer. (The inside of that locker was actually many degrees warmer than -40.) Coming from a place with cold winters, I’ve lived through -40 degree temperatures in real life and preferred to remain in the hot summer temperatures, so I passed on the Alaska @ 40 Below Experience. However, even the idea of temperatures that cold must seem unfathomable to people who’ve lived their lives in warm climates or have not experienced temperatures much below freezing. I can understand wanting to know what it feels like.

The Riverboat Discovery sails twice a day from early May through mid-September. It is an excursion well worth taking should you visit Fairbanks in the summer.

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Riverboat Discovery excursion along the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska; Cruising Through Alaska History and Culture Aboard a Sternwheeler #Alaska #Fairbanks #sternwheeler #history #rivercruise

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A step back in time. (Or at least until you hit the gift shop part.) Looks like a great way to spend the day, scenic and relaxing.

Ken, the Riverboat Discovery is well worth doing when in Fairbanks. It is both a step back in time and a modern-day experience.

I’ll never forget the thrill of taking a cruise a few years ago on a paddleboat down the Mississippi and your ride on the ‘Riverboat Discovery’ looks just as memorable. I loved learning about the history of the sternwheeler ships as well as more about the dogsled races. And … oh that gorgeous fur parka!! Anita

Anita, that parka was special. It was made of some many different furs I couldn’t remember them all, with specific ones selected for right around the face because of their insulating quality and handling of moisture. I also don’t remember how much it weighed, but it wasn’t light!

Wow, this palace looks amazing. Your images is lively with the nice captions.

Thanks William, and thanks for stopping by.

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The Riverboat Cruise In West Virginia You Never Knew Existed

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Allison Burnell

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When you think about riverboats, what typically comes to mind is the mighty Mississippi River, and the sternwheel crafts that operate on it. But did you know that WV has its own sternwheel river boat? Located on the broad Ohio River along the western edge of the state, the Island Belle Sternwheeler operates between Point Park in Parkersburg, WV and historic Blennerhassett Island in the middle of the Ohio.

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This Dreamy Train-Themed Trip Through West Virginia Will Take You On The Journey Of A Lifetime

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The schedule for Blennerhassett Island from May 4 – June 10 is Tuesday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday, noon until 5:30 p.m. The Blennerhassett Museum opens one hour prior to the first boat departure.

Additional hours of operation for the summer season for the museum, the island, and the Island Belle are posted on The park website . Or call 304-420-4800.

What are some other noteworthy river tours in WV that you know of?

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  • American Cruise Lines

American Heritage

Former names: queen of the mississippi, american eagle.

American Heritage cruise ship

Cruise line American Cruise Lines

  • New Orleans (Port NOLA Louisiana)
  • Pittsburgh PA (Pennsylvania)

American Heritage current position

American Heritage current location is at US Inland (coordinates 35.17882 N / -90.05737 W) cruising en route to MEMPHIS,TN. The AIS position was reported 2 hours ago.

Current itinerary of American Heritage

American Heritage current cruise is 7 days, one-way from Memphis TN to New Orleans . The itinerary starts on 22 Jun, 2024 and ends on 29 Jun, 2024 .

Date / TimePort
22 Jun     from hotels
24 Jun    
25 Jun    
26 Jun    
27 Jun    
28 Jun    
29 Jun     in hotels

Specifications of American Heritage

Year of build2015  /  Age: 9
Flag state USA
BuilderChesapeake Shipbuilding (Salisbury, Maryland USA)
Classpaddlewheel riverboat
Speed12 kn / 22 km/h / 14 mph
Length (LOA)90 m / 295 ft
Beam (width)16 m / 52 ft
Gross Tonnage3800 gt
Passengers78 - 150
Crew40
Cabins78
Last Refurbishment2022
Former namesQueen of the Mississippi, American Eagle
Christened byCheryl Landrieu
OwnerAmerican Cruise Lines Inc
OperatorAmerican Cruise Lines
  •   Itineraries
  •   Review
  •   Wiki

American Heritage Itineraries

DateItineraryDeparture PortPrice from
2024 May 25 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 May 29 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 Jun 01 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 Jun 08 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 Jun 22 7 days, one-way from Memphis TN to New Orleans Memphis TN
2024 Jul 06 7 days, one-way from Memphis TN to New Orleans Memphis TN
2024 Jul 20 7 days, one-way from Memphis TN to New Orleans Memphis TN
2024 Jul 27 13 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA $6545
2024 Aug 16 9 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA
2024 Aug 24 13 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA $6945
2024 Nov 05 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 Nov 12 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 Nov 19 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2024 Nov 26 7 days, round-trip 7 Night New Orleans to New Orleans Cruise New Orleans
2025 Jul 26 13 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA $7545
2025 Aug 23 13 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA $7545
2026 Jul 26 13 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA
2026 Aug 23 13 days, one-way from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MO Pittsburgh PA

American Heritage Review

Review of american heritage.

The 2015-built (as "American Eagle") American Heritage cruise ship (fka "Queen of the Mississippi") is a stern-paddlewheel riverboat owned by ACL and operating Ohio and Mississippi river cruises departing from homeports New Orleans , Memphis TN , Saint Louis MO , Cincinnati OH .

Following a redesign and complete refurbishment in 2021-2022, the riverboat Queen of the Mississippi was renamed "American Heritage". Also fully-refitted and renamed were the fleetmates America (now American Splendor) and Queen of the West (now American West) .

The vessel is currently USA- flagged (MMSI 367648680) and registered in Port NOLA (New Orleans).

History - construction and ownership

The shipowner American Cruise Lines (ACL) is the USA's largest river cruise company (headquarters in Guilford Connecticut) operational since 1991. The company specializes in cruise shipping on the USA's largest navigable inland waterways (rivers and lakes) as well as in cruises along the US East Coast, US West Coast and Florida. All ACL vessels feature some of the industry's largest passenger cabins with private balconies, spacious lounges and outdoor deck spaces, gourmet cuisine, a top-quality enrichment program (with many complimentary land tours and excursions), highly personalized service by all-American staff and crew.

All ACL cruise ships are US-flagged and built by the company-owned Chesapeake Shipbuilding Yard in Salisbury (Maryland USA).

American Heritage cruise ship (Queen of the Mississippi riverboat)

Unlike the old Queen of the Mississippi ship, the newbuild's crew quarters are on Deck 1 (instead od Deck 5) as Deck 5 houses balcony staterooms and suites. Most cabins (ranging 300-600 ft2) are with private balconies, so passengers can enjoy alfresco in-cabin dining. Traditionally, American Cruise Line serves local food, focusing on Cajun and Creole cuisine. The new riverboat also features small and large lounges, library, showroom, card room, putting green, complimentary self-service launderette, 3 PC terminals (Internet computers) and free WiFi access.

"American Eagle" was the name previously chosen for the new Queen of the new Mississippi ship. This large riverboat is a sister (with similar design) to American Pride . In 2015, ACL decided to rename the old Queen of the Mississippi to "American Pride" and the new vessel ("American Eagle") to be named "Queen of the Mississippi".

On August 4, 2015, ACL announced that the boat would be renamed (first to "American Eagle") and repositioned from Mississippi to Columbia-Snake River System in early 2016, and replaced on the Mississippi by the ship "America". Another new paddle-wheeler constructed at Chesapeake Shipbuilding assumed the name "Queen of the Mississippi". ACL has since listed on its website the old Mississippi ship's name as "American Pride".

The vessel's sister by design is American West/Queen of the West (cruising on Snake and Columbia rivers in Northwest USA). Both ships have stern-mounted paddlewheel (23-ton). It is driven by a hydraulic motor, powered by diesel engines. The ships are easily navigated by a couple of Z-drive units providing more maneuverability and higher cruising speed than typical riverboats.

American Pride  (the old Queen of the Mississippi ship) entered service in 2012. On August 4, 2015, American Cruise Lines announced that the boat would be renamed (first to "American Eagle") and repositioned from Mississippi to Columbia-Snake River System in early 2016, and replaced on the Mississippi by the ship "America". Another new paddle-wheeler constructed at Chesapeake Shipbuilding assumed the name "Queen of the Mississippi". ACL has since listed on its website the old Mississippi ship's name as "American Pride". A new sistership entered service in 2017 and was named " America (American Splendor since 2022) ".

Decks and Cabins

ACL's American Heritage riverboat has 6 passenger decks and accommodates 150 passengers in 78 staterooms . Accommodations include 6 Suites, 49 Balcony, 22 Riverview (with non-opening windows) in 7 grades.

All staterooms feature a private bath, window, interior entrance, Wi-Fi, are among the most spacious in the river cruising industry, with more space per guest than most riverboats. An all-American crew provides carefully personalized service.

Shipboard facilities and amenities

The ship offers overnight river travel deals within the continental United States. This big-sized riverboat gives new standards to America's most iconic river. The framework of modern cruising technology is beneath gleaming woodwork and ensures guests spend a most comfortable vacation. 

Restaurants, Lounges & Bars include: Grand Dining Salon (dining room), Natchez Lounge (shows), Magnolia Lounge (club), Paddlewheel Lounge (observation), Sky Lounge (observation), Upper Lounge (cards room), Mark Twain Library, Sun Deck (Promenade, an open-air observation lounge area with Top Deck Cafe bar, shaded seating, rocking chairs, live calliope music, putting green, outdoor gym).

American Heritage river cruise prices are per person (USD) and based on double occupancy. These are only indicative ACL cruise rates. They might be different when you book your USA river cruise deals, influenced by travel agency promotions, special offers and discounts, group travel booking or last-minute deals rates.

Itineraries

American Heritage cruises feature 7-night itineraries on Mississippi and Ohio rivers with departures from the ports of New Orleans LA, Memphis TN, Nashville TN and St Louis MO.

  • (Mississippi cruises) round-trip from New Orleans, from Memphis to Nashville TN (Tennessee) from Nashville to St Louis, and from Nashville to Memphis
  • (Mississippi and Ohio cruises) from Memphis to St Louis, and the reverse from St Louis to Memphis, also from St. Louis to Cincinnati
  • ("Lower Mississippi River Cruise") from New Orleans to Memphis, and the reverse from Memphis to New Orleans
  • ("Upper Mississippi River Cruise") from St Louis to St Paul
  • ("Ohio River Cruise") from St Louis to Pittsburgh PA
  • themed ("Grand Heartland Cruise") from St Paul to New Orleans
  • themed ("Cumberland River Cruise") from Nashville to St Louis

Some of the ACL riverboat deals are on themed voyages. Among those themes are "Food and Wine", "Fall Foliage", "American Civil War", "Music", "Savories of the South", "Mark Twain Tribute", the Holiday-themed sailings for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Follows the list of the boat's USA departure ports:

  • New Orleans LA (Louisiana)
  • Memphis TN (Tennessee)
  • St Louis MO (Missouri)
  • St Paul MN (Minnesota)
  • Cincinnati OH (Ohio).

The list of visited states and ports of call (counties) along the American Heritage itinerary routes includes:

  • Louisiana - Oak Alley (Vacherie), St Francisville (West Feliciana Parish), Baton Rouge (state's capital), Houmas (Burnside)
  • Mississippi - Natchez (Adams County), Vicksburg (County)
  • Kentucky - Columbus (Hickman County), Paducah (McCracken County), Louisville (Louisville-Jefferson County), Henderson (County), Maysville (Mason County)
  • Missouri - Cape Girardeau (County), Hannibal (Marion-Ralls)
  • Illinois - Chester (Randolph County), Cave-in-Rock (Hardin County)
  • Indiana - Madison (Jefferson County)
  • Iowa - Davenport (Scott County), Dubuque (County)
  • Wisconsin - La Crosse (County)
  • Minnesota - Red Wing
  • Ohio - Portsmouth, Gallipolis, Marietta
  • Tennessee - Dover, Clarksville, Nashville
  • West Virginia - Point Pleasant, Wheeling
  • Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh

ACL cruise deals are inclusive of the Internet (Wi-Fi), all tours/excursions, flight and coach transfers, live evening entertainment, daily expert lectures, food tastings, 24-hour coffee/tea, replenished daily bottled water, room service (twice daily).

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American Heritage cruise ship (Queen of the Mississippi riverboat)

American Heritage ship related cruise news

ACL-American Cruise Lines begins its biggest season ever on the Mississippi

ACL-American Cruise Lines begins its biggest season ever on the Mississippi

ACL-American Cruise Lines has just commenced the biggest season ever on the Mississippi. In 2023, the company is introducing its new American...

ACL-American Cruise Lines opens 2023 season with American Star ship from Florida

ACL-American Cruise Lines opens 2023 season with American Star ship from Florida

ACL-American Cruise Lines announced that February 18th would mark the opening of the company’s 2023 U.S. cruise season when the American Star...

ACL-American Cruise Lines’ fleet expands to 15 small ships in 2022

ACL-American Cruise Lines’ fleet expands to 15 small ships in 2022

The USA's largest river cruise company ACL-American Cruise Lines announced that the renaming of their riverboat fleet was complete and the company...

ACL-American Cruise Lines renames and redesigns 4 paddlewheel ships

ACL-American Cruise Lines renames and redesigns 4 paddlewheel ships

ACL-American Cruise Lines announced plans to redesign, fully refurbish and rename its 4 paddlewheel ships. The paddlewheelers will get a new...

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Other American Cruise Lines cruise ships

  • ACL American Eagle
  • ACL American Glory
  • ACL American Legend
  • ACL American Liberty
  • American Constellation
  • American Constitution
  • American Empress
  • American Harmony
  • American Independence
  • American Jazz
  • American Melody
  • American Pride
  • American Serenade
  • American Song
  • American Spirit
  • American Splendor
  • American Star
  • American Symphony
  • American West

American Heritage Wiki

Queen of the Mississippi riverboat cruises in the USA and offers unique travel experiences on a market that was once booming, later dormant, present-day exotic - and like no other. The Mississippi river paddle boats were the "cruise ships of the old", delivering both pleasure travel and cargo shipping services in the US in the late 1800s. But unlike her predecessors, the Queen of the Mississippi boat offers amenities and comforts unseen in these destinations before - including large-sized cabins with private verandas and bathrooms, Wi-Fi Internet, classy room service, lifts (to all decks), complimentary land tours and themed entertainment.

American Heritage cruise ship (Queen of the Mississippi riverboat)

The cruise ship is a classic sternwheeler (paddle-wheeler) starting its first cruise on December 25, 2016. The vessel features floor-to-ceiling sliding doors in all staterooms and the industry's most spacious cabins with private balconies (stateroom sizes vary between 268-460 ft2 / 25-43m2).

This vessel, by its paddlewheel riverboat design, is sister to the fleet mates  American Pride (the old "Queen of the Mississippi" /2012) and America (2017). It is also similar to Queen of the West/American West (fleetmate) and to American Empress  and  American Queen  (both of the American Steamboat Company's fleet).

The paddle-wheel is a feature component of the ship's propulsion system. The wheel is driven by a hydraulic motor, which is powered by two Caterpillar marine diesel engines (type "CAT C32 ACERT"). The boat's paddlewheel is the main propulsion unit, to which for better maneuverability and higher service cruising speeds are added 3x Azimuth thrusters. These modern marine propulsion units are also known as "Z-drives". They are both fully submerged under water and able to rotate at 360 degrees.

Despite the fact that this so famous riverboat is powered by marine diesel engines, many call Queen of the Mississippi "steamboat". The reason is that the ship is a design replica of the US glamorous riverboats which used to sail on the country's largest rivers of the South (Mississippi and Ohio,) and in the Pacific Northwest (Snake and Columbia) in the late 1800s. Also known as "paddle steamers", they were all driven by the steam power rotating their stern paddle wheel. The alternative riverboat design was with two wheels mounted at the sides.

The ship's 7-night / 8-day itineraries are on Columbia and Snake Rivers with one-way departures from Portland Oregon and Clarkston Washington.

American Heritage cruise ship (Queen of the Mississippi riverboat)

The new Queen of the Mississippi ship was christened (as "American Eagle") on April 25, 2015. The naming ceremony was held on the ship's bow, led by the vessel's godmother Cheryl P. Landrieu (US attorney, wife of New Orleans' Mayor M Landrieu. The ceremony was also attended by Charles Robertson (American Cruise Lines' CEO)and featured a cappella concert by Victory Belles (trio orchestra).

Following the christening ceremony, American Eagle departed on the 7-night Inaugural Cruise on Lower Mississippi River, with call ports Natchez, Vicksburg, Saint Francisville and Vacherie. The riverboat's name was changed in 2016.

This riverboat features advanced water purification equipment that minimizes the effects of greywater discharges into the Mississippi River. The hydraulic paddlewheel (at the stern) benefits from three Z-drive azimuth propellers (aka azimuth thrusters) rotating 360 degrees.

Next infographic shows American Pride cruise ship (Queen of the Mississippi's and America's sister-ship). Here you can see what is what and where on these unique riverboats.

Note: You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all river cruise ships and riverboats in the "itinerary" section of our  River Cruises  hub. All companies and their fleets are listed there.

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239 stern wheeler stock photos, vectors, and illustrations are available royalty-free for download., savanah, georgia - 10-19-2105: the georgia queen stern wheeler on the savannah river in savannah..

Savanah, Georgia - 10-19-2105:  The Georgia Queen stern wheeler on the Savannah River in Savannah. Editorial Stock Photo

SAVANNAH GA USA - Mar 2 2022: Stern wheeler Georgia Queen on the Savannah River

SAVANNAH GA USA - Mar 2 2022: Stern wheeler Georgia Queen on the Savannah River Editorial Stock Photo

Historical Stern Wheeler on The Columbia River, Skamania Port Waterfront Park, Stevenson, Washington, USA

Historical Stern Wheeler on The Columbia River, Skamania Port Waterfront Park, Stevenson, Washington, USA Stock Photo

Old Stern Wheeler Steam Boat in the Mississippi Rive at New Orleans

Old Stern Wheeler Steam Boat in the Mississippi Rive at New Orleans Stock Photo

USA, Oregon, Lane County, Salem. River Front Park. River boat,twin-paddle, Stern wheeler (87 feet), Willamette Queen. 2016-06-25

USA, Oregon, Lane County, Salem.  River Front Park.  River boat,twin-paddle, Stern wheeler (87 feet), Willamette Queen. 2016-06-25 Stock Photo

Lake Tahoe, California / USA - Jan 28 2017: The MS Dixie II stern-wheeler tour boat takes Lake Tahoe visitors into beautiful Emerald Bay.

Lake Tahoe, California / USA - Jan 28 2017: The MS Dixie II stern-wheeler tour boat takes Lake Tahoe visitors into beautiful Emerald Bay. Editorial Stock Photo

Steamboat Red Paddle Wheel

Steamboat Red Paddle Wheel Stock Photo

SS Sicamous Penticton BC Shoreline. The historic SS Sicamous stern wheeler on display on the beach of Okanagan Lake, BC.

sternwheeler riverboat

stern wheeler river boat wheel

stern wheeler river boat wheel Stock Photo

ohio river boat

ohio river  boat Stock Photo

Stern wheel drive on a 155' riverboat providing tours on the North Saskatchewan River below Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Stern wheel drive on a 155' riverboat providing tours on the North Saskatchewan River below Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Stock Photo

Louisville KY USA - May 10 2017: Paddlewheel steamboat Belle of Louisville underway on the Ohio River

Louisville KY USA - May 10 2017: Paddlewheel steamboat Belle of Louisville underway on the Ohio River Editorial Stock Photo

New Orleans, LA, USA - December 18th 2023: Sternwheeler on the Mississippi river.

New Orleans, LA, USA - December 18th 2023: Sternwheeler on the Mississippi river. Editorial Stock Photo

Biloxi, Mississippi, USA - May 30, 2021: The Betsy Ann riverboat passes between Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and Deer Island in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Betsy Ann offers riverboat cruises in Biloxi.

Biloxi, Mississippi, USA - May 30, 2021: The Betsy Ann riverboat passes between Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and Deer Island in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Betsy Ann offers riverboat cruises in Biloxi.  Editorial Stock Photo

The Red Stern Wheel on a Large Steam Powered River Boat in New Orleans

The Red Stern Wheel on a Large Steam Powered River Boat in New Orleans Stock Photo

Paddle on stern wheeler

Paddle on stern wheeler Stock Photo

HAMBURG - GERMANY, MARCH 28: the Missisippi Queen built in 1987 is a famous destination for tourists to get the Mississippi feeling on March 28,2011 in Hamburg, Germany,

HAMBURG - GERMANY, MARCH 28: the Missisippi Queen built in 1987 is a famous destination for tourists to get the Mississippi feeling on March 28,2011 in Hamburg, Germany, Editorial Stock Photo

Stylized vector illustration of paddle steamer sketches

Stylized vector illustration of paddle steamer sketches Stock Vector

Paddle wheel boat on the lake

Paddle wheel boat on the lake Stock Photo

The rear of a large antique river boat.The paddle wheel has steel frame and blades with wooden spacers on the propellers. The ship's propulsion is stationary. There's a blue cloudy sky in the distance

The rear of a large antique river boat.The paddle wheel has steel frame and blades with wooden spacers on the propellers. The ship's propulsion is stationary. There's a blue cloudy sky in the distance Stock Photo

SS Sicamous is a tourist attraction on the shores of Lake Penticition in British Columbia, A museum and 5 decked stern wheeler also used today as a banqueting facility. Sept 2019 Canada.

SS Sicamous is a tourist attraction on the shores of Lake Penticition in British Columbia, A museum and 5 decked stern wheeler  also used today as a banqueting facility. Sept 2019 Canada. Editorial Stock Photo

SS Sicamous Penticton Night. The historic SS Sicamous stern wheeler on display on the beach of Okanagan Lake, BC.

sternwheeler riverboat

Closeup of wooden floats in a paddle wheel of vintage recreational steamer

sternwheeler riverboat

Wheeled Steamboat 3D illustration on white background

Wheeled Steamboat 3D illustration on white background Stock Illustration

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Canada - June 12 2009: The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike located in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. It travelled the upper Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory  Canada - June 12 2009:  The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike located in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.  It travelled the upper Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City. Editorial Stock Photo

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 6, 2019 Tourists Natchez Steamboat Riverboat Flags Wharf Mississippi River New Orleans Louisiana. One of the last Sternwheel Steamboats

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 6, 2019 Tourists Natchez Steamboat Riverboat Flags Wharf Mississippi River New Orleans Louisiana.  One of the last Sternwheel Steamboats Editorial Stock Photo

Close of of part of a stern wheeler

Close of of part of a stern wheeler Stock Photo

Cruise boat in front of Nashville Skyline

Cruise boat in front of Nashville Skyline Stock Photo

DAWSON CITY, CANADA - AUGUST 11, 2018 : River Yukon and Stern wheeler SS Keno in Dawson City, built 1922, served on Stewart River till 1951, now a permanent memorial in Dawson City.

DAWSON CITY, CANADA - AUGUST 11, 2018 : River Yukon and Stern wheeler SS Keno in Dawson City, built 1922, served on Stewart River till 1951, now a permanent memorial in Dawson City. Editorial Stock Photo

Touristic stern-wheeler boat on Columbia River, Oregon, United States.

Touristic stern-wheeler boat on Columbia River, Oregon, United States. Stock Photo

NEW ORLEANS, LA, USA - JUNE 2, 2022: Stern of the Wheeler, a hopper dredge docked on the Mississippi River at the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

NEW ORLEANS, LA, USA - JUNE 2, 2022: Stern of the Wheeler, a hopper dredge docked on the Mississippi River at the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  Editorial Stock Photo

big wheel on the mississippi steam boat

          big wheel on the mississippi steam boat                      Stock Photo

Paddle Steamer Isolated. 3D rendering

Paddle Steamer Isolated. 3D rendering Stock Illustration

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada - July 24 2017: SS Klondike National Historic Site and museum, steam powered sternwheeler ran freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada - July 24 2017: SS Klondike National Historic Site and museum, steam powered sternwheeler ran freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City Editorial Stock Photo

Whitehorse,Yukon Territories, Canada, July, 2018, SS Klondike Stern Wheeler, Boat, Klondike National Historic Site.

Whitehorse,Yukon Territories, Canada, July, 2018, SS Klondike Stern Wheeler, Boat, Klondike National Historic Site. Editorial Stock Photo

Penticton, British Columbia/Canada - October 22, 2018: view of Okanagan Beach and the S.S. Sicamous, the largest surviving stern wheeler in British Columbia and a popular tourist attraction.

Penticton, British Columbia/Canada - October 22, 2018: view of Okanagan Beach and the S.S. Sicamous, the largest surviving stern wheeler in British Columbia and a popular tourist attraction. Editorial Stock Photo

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA - OCT. 30, 2016: The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. The Belle offers a variety of cruises on the Ohio River.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA - OCT. 30, 2016:  The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. The Belle offers a variety of cruises on the Ohio River. Editorial Stock Photo

A view of the Columbia River, a stern wheeler river boat, and the city of the Dalles, Oregon

A view of the Columbia River, a stern wheeler river boat, and the city of the Dalles, Oregon Stock Photo

DAWSON CITY, CANADA - AUGUST 11, 2018: Paddle-steamer, Stern wheeler SS Keno in Dawson City, built 1922, served on Stewart River till 1951, now a permanent memorial in Dawson City.

DAWSON CITY, CANADA - AUGUST 11, 2018: Paddle-steamer, Stern wheeler SS Keno in Dawson City, built 1922, served on Stewart River till 1951, now a permanent memorial in Dawson City. Editorial Stock Photo

Klondike SS Sternwheel steamboat vintage picture of boat on bank of the river Yukon in Whitehorse from back

Klondike SS Sternwheel steamboat vintage picture of boat on bank of the river Yukon in Whitehorse from back Stock Photo

picture of a paddlewheels of an old sternwheeler

picture of a paddlewheels of an old sternwheeler Stock Photo

Penticton, British Columbia/Canada - October 22, 2018: the S. S. Sicamous is one of the largest surviving stern wheelers in the province and an important heritage attraction

Penticton, British Columbia/Canada - October 22, 2018: the S. S. Sicamous is one of the largest surviving stern wheelers in the province and an important heritage attraction Editorial Stock Photo

stern wheeler boat at sunset on river

stern wheeler boat at sunset on river Stock Photo

stern wheeler boat on river

stern wheeler boat on river Stock Photo

Stylized vector illustration of blueprints of paddle steamer

Stylized vector illustration of blueprints of paddle steamer Stock Vector

stern wheeler boat on river at sunset

stern wheeler boat on river at sunset Stock Photo

Dawson City, Yukon Territory Canada - September 12th 2022: The sternwheeler Keno by the river

Dawson City, Yukon Territory  Canada - September 12th 2022: The sternwheeler Keno by the river Editorial Stock Photo

A Red Stern Wheeler Wheel

A Red Stern Wheeler Wheel  Stock Photo

Sternwheeler in Downtown Nashville

Sternwheeler in Downtown Nashville Stock Photo

Boats and ships at the Sternwheeler SS Sicamous Heritage Park located at Okanagan Lake in Penticton British Columbia, Canada on summer sunny day-June 6,2022. Travel photo, street view, nobody

Boats and ships at the Sternwheeler SS Sicamous Heritage Park located at Okanagan Lake in Penticton British Columbia, Canada on summer sunny day-June 6,2022. Travel photo, street view, nobody Editorial Stock Photo

Stern-wheeler ship

Stern-wheeler ship Stock Photo

Close up Inside the motorcycle engine.

sternwheeler riverboat

Steamboat Red Paddle Wheel. Closeup Of Red Paddle Wheel On River Boat. Travel photo, selective focus, nobody

Steamboat Red Paddle Wheel. Closeup Of Red Paddle Wheel On River Boat. Travel photo, selective focus, nobody Stock Photo

Mayville, New York, USA May 11, 2023 A double deck paddle boat in dry dock on the shore of Lake Chautauqua on a sunny spring day

Mayville, New York, USA May 11, 2023 A double deck paddle boat in dry dock on the shore of Lake Chautauqua on a sunny spring day Editorial Stock Photo

Whitehorse, Yukon Canada - September 16 2011: The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike located in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. It travelled the upper Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

Whitehorse, Yukon  Canada - September 16 2011:  The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike located in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.  It travelled the upper Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City. Editorial Stock Photo

LOUISVILLE, KY, USA - FEB 5, 2016: Belle of Louisville at Waterfront Park Wharf in Louisville Ky. The Belle is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the World.

LOUISVILLE, KY, USA - FEB 5, 2016: Belle of Louisville at Waterfront Park Wharf in Louisville Ky. The Belle is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the World. Editorial Stock Photo

Paddle steamer on the Fraser River at Abbotsford British Columbia Canada

Paddle steamer on the Fraser River at Abbotsford British Columbia Canada Stock Photo

New Orleans, LA, USA - October 6 2017: Mississippi River sternwheeler paddle boat

New Orleans, LA, USA - October 6 2017: Mississippi River sternwheeler paddle boat Editorial Stock Photo

The stern of a river ship with a vintage driving wheel. Moscow, Russia - August 28, 2022

The stern of a river ship with a vintage driving wheel. Moscow, Russia - August 28, 2022 Editorial Stock Photo

River traffic on the Cumberland river near Nashville Tennessee ,

River traffic on the Cumberland river near Nashville Tennessee , Stock Photo

stern wheel cruise ships at dock in Astoria, Oregon

stern wheel cruise ships at dock in Astoria, Oregon Stock Photo

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – October 6, 2018. M.V. Constitution Paddle Wheeler Burrard Inlet. The M.V. Constitution doing a sightseeing tour of Burrard Inlet. Vancouver BC, Canada.

sternwheeler riverboat

Rusted Paddle Wheel Retired Riverboat. Cloudy sky in the background. Stock Image.

Rusted Paddle Wheel Retired Riverboat. Cloudy sky in the background. Stock Image. Stock Photo

Close-up of paddles of The Delta Queen steamboat on the Mississippi River

Close-up of paddles of The Delta Queen steamboat on the Mississippi River Editorial Stock Photo

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA - OCT. 15, 2016: The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. The Belle offers a variety of cruises on the Ohio River.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA - OCT. 15, 2016:  The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. The Belle offers a variety of cruises on the Ohio River. Editorial Stock Photo

WHITEHORSE, YUKON, CANADA - JULY 20, 2018: Klondike SS Sternwheel steamboat, picture of boat on bank of the river Yukon in Whitehorse – National historic site

WHITEHORSE, YUKON, CANADA - JULY 20, 2018: Klondike SS Sternwheel steamboat, picture of boat on bank of the river Yukon in Whitehorse – National historic site Editorial Stock Photo

Dawson City, Canada - July 7, 2018 : Stern wheel SS Keno National Historic Site in Dawson City Yukon Territory, Canada. Klondike gold rush town.

Dawson City, Canada - July 7, 2018 : Stern wheel SS Keno National Historic Site in Dawson City Yukon Territory, Canada. Klondike gold rush town. Editorial Stock Photo

Majestic Missouri River ice jams

Majestic Missouri River ice jams  Stock Photo

New Orleans, US; December 9 of 2022: Port on the mississipi river, boats.

New Orleans, US; December 9 of 2022: Port on the mississipi river, boats. Editorial Stock Photo

Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada - October 5, 2020: The SS Moyie situated in Kaslo, BC is a paddle steamer sternwheeler that worked on Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada from 1898 until 1957.

Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada - October 5, 2020: The SS Moyie situated in Kaslo, BC is a paddle steamer sternwheeler that worked on Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada from 1898 until 1957.  Editorial Stock Photo

Sternwheeler on the Cumberland river , storm is a comng

Sternwheeler on the Cumberland river  , storm is a comng Stock Photo

Close up of the wheel of a paddle wheeler

Close up of the wheel of a paddle wheeler Stock Photo

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Canada - September 16th 2022: The superstructure of the Klondike Sternwheeler

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory  Canada - September 16th 2022: The superstructure of the Klondike Sternwheeler Editorial Stock Photo

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On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on with two-month nationwide pilgrimage

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On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on with two-month nationwide pilgrimage

Hundreds of Catholics gathered in a small Ohio city for devotional activities, part of a cross-country pilgrimage focused on raising the public profile of the Eucharist. Events end in July at the first National Eucharistic Congress in more than 80 years. (AP Video: Jessie Wardarski)

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Bishop Edward Lohse, apostolic administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, left, hands the Eucharist to the Rev. Roger Landry as they board a boat on the Ohio River as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, at the Steubenville Marina in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

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A riverboat carrying the Eucharist cruises down the Ohio River between Wellsburg, West Virginia, and Brilliant, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. The voyage is part of a two-month series of cross-country pilgrimages focused on the Eucharist, seeking to raise devotion around a sacrament in which Catholics believe they encounter Jesus’ real presence. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Sister Mary Fatima Pham, second from right, kneels with her fellow Catholics as they watch the Eucharist brought on board a boat on the Ohio River at the Steubenville Marina in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will conclude at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in mid-July, the first held in more than 80 years. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Hundreds of Catholics gather in procession with the Eucharist in downtown Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. This event was part of a two-month series of cross-country pilgrimages focused on the Eucharist, seeking to raise devotion around a sacrament in which Catholics believe they encounter Jesus’ real presence. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Catholics kneel as the Eucharist passes in procession in downtown Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. This and other weekend events were part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which will conclude at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in mid-July, the first held in more than 80 years. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Families climb the steps of St. Peter Church in Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024, to attend a prayer service as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Families attend a prayer service as a part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at St. Peter Church in Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Families pack into St. Peter Church for a prayer service as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. The pilgrimage began in four separate locations, California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas, and will conclude with the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in mid-July. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Bishop Paul Bradley raises the Eucharist during a prayers service at St. Peter Church in Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. The service was part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which seeks to raise devotion around a sacrament in which Catholics believe they encounter Jesus’ real presence. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Families attend a prayer service as a part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at St. Peter Church in Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. The service was part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which seeks to raise devotion around a sacrament in which Catholics believe they encounter Jesus’ real presence. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Sisters of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Healing Love in Manchester, N.H., wait along the shores of the Ohio River for the arrival of the Eucharist at the Steubenville Marina, in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. The sisters are a part of the National Eucharist Pilgrimage caravan, following the East Coast route until it concludes at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in mid-July. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Catholics kneel as the Eucharist arrives at the Steubenville Marina in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

The Rev. Roger Landry, center, arrives with the Eucharist at the Ohio River in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. The river voyage is part of a two-month series of cross-country pilgrimages focused on the Eucharist, seeking to raise devotion around a sacrament in which Catholics believe they encounter Jesus’ real presence. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

From left, Tara Mostero, her twin sister Ashley Mostero, Becca Eckelkamp, Tracy Mostero, and Jean Hilgendorf take a selfie Sunday, June 23, 2024, in front of the riverboat that will carry the Eucharist down the Ohio River from the Steubenville Marina to Wheeling, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Amanda and Toby Byrnes of Chester, W.Va., stand along the Ohio River with their children and fellow Catholics watching as a boat holding the Eucharist floats toward Wheeling, West Virginia, Sunday June 23, 2024, in Steubenville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Bishop Edward Lohse, apostolic administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, carries the Eucharist onto a riverboat as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in Steubenville, Ohio, Friday, June 21, 2024. The boat made its way along the Ohio River from Steubenville to Wheeling, W.Va., ringing its bell as bishops blessed communities along the route. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Misha McGovern, right, and her two sons, Benedict, center, and Bede, left, stand at the Steubenville Marina with fellow Catholics awaiting the arrival of the Eucharist, in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Catholics stand on the edge of the Ohio River watching the Eucharist move down the Ohio River headed for Wheeling, W.Va., Sunday, June 23, 2024, in Steubenville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — “Bye bye, Jesus!” a child called out as the riverboat chugged away from shore into the Ohio River, a solemn bell tolling amid the thrumming of an old-fashioned sternwheel.

Two Catholic bishops on board, representing dioceses on each side of the river, took turns holding aloft the guest of honor — the consecrated Eucharistic host, in which Catholics believe Jesus is truly present in the Communion bread.

Scores of devotees watched reverently from the shore on Sunday — nuns and families with clusters of young children — fingering rosaries, uttering prayers, singing quietly. Some knelt on the gravel surface.

The event culminated three days of devotions in this small Ohio city, launched by a procession through downtown streets on a sweltering Friday evening, where hundreds of devotees passed bars, shops, vacant storefronts and the curious stares of residents in folding chairs.

Among those in the procession were seminarians in black cassocks, nuns in habits, girls in First Communion dresses, and members of lay orders in traditional garb. One girl’s T-shirt proclaimed, “Get holy or die tryin’.”

It’s just a snapshot of a wider project. Catholic pilgrims are in the middle of a two-month journey on four routes across the United States. They’re planning to converge on Indianapolis in mid-July for a climactic stadium gathering called the National Eucharistic Congress, the first such event in more than 80 years.

Everywhere, the center of attention is the Eucharistic host, held in a golden vessel known as a monstrance.

“The pilgrimage is a really exciting opportunity for us to literally walk with Jesus, like the apostles did,” said Zoe Dongas, one of a small group of “perpetual” pilgrims traveling an entire route.

Starting in May in New Haven, Connecticut, her group has processed through cities, ridden by boat to the Statue of Liberty and trekked through rural Pennsylvania in a heat wave. The group will travel from West Virginia across Ohio to Indianapolis, meeting up with pilgrims who started from California, Texas and Minnesota.

Organizers are hoping that — as with the child on the riverbank — the enterprise reinforces the core Catholic belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, and not just symbolized by bread and wine, as many Protestants believe.

Some have questioned the need for the event, and the congress’s $14 million cost — saying belief in the Eucharist is stronger than feared, that the event is only appealing to those already drawn to traditional piety and that it’s partly the byproduct of a political debate.

But Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, said reinforcing Eucharistic faith is crucial.

“If that is weakened in our people, then they’ll be weakened in their response to Christ and to the service of God and neighbor that they’re supposed to offer,” Brennan said aboard the boat taking him and his counterpart from the Diocese of Steubenville downriver toward Wheeling.

If the scenes in Steubenville seemed like something out of another era, they are.

The last time a Eucharistic National Congress was held, it was in an era when urban Catholics thronged to massive devotional parades and stadium events. That kind of traditional piety began waning by mid-20th century.

But Steubenville, a Rust Belt city showing the wear of its post-industrial years, is a hub for some hoping to revive traditional piety. The region is home to a conservative Catholic university, a Catholic family camp and a cluster of religious orders.

This weekend, participants spoke of the Eucharist simply as Jesus.

The idea of taking Jesus out on a riverboat was natural in light of the assigned gospel reading at Sunday Mass, in which Jesus rides in a boat with his disciples and miraculously calms a storm, said Steubenville seminarian Sam Ivkovich.

“He preached from boats, so this seems fitting,” Ivkovich said on the wind-whipped Wellsburg Bridge, where he gathered with several devotees to kneel, sing and pray as the boat passed below.

The pilgrimages sprang from deliberations among U.S. bishops.

Their 2021 document , “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” arose amid debate over whether bishops should withhold Communion from Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden or Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrats who supported abortion rights. Following cautionary signals from the Vatican, the document ultimately did not directly address that question, though it called on Catholics to examine whether they align with church teachings.

Some bishops cited a 2019 survey that found most church members don’t believe Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist. Bishops devised a three-year focus on the doctrine, culminating in pilgrimages and the Indianapolis gathering.

Some researchers have cast doubt on the original survey’s phrasing.

A follow-up by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in 2022 used multiple phrasings and found that 64% of Catholics expressed belief in Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist in at least one response. Virtually all Catholics who attend Mass weekly affirmed this belief, according to the Georgetown University-based center.

This raises the question of whether the pilgrimage and congress amount to “a solution in search of a problem,” said Steven Millies, professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He wondered if bishops’ real worry is over Catholics’ “lost sense of difference” from a society they have assimilated into.

In the early to mid-20th century, when Catholics were defined by growing communities of European immigrants and their descendants, they gathered by the scores of thousands for Eucharistic and other traditional devotions at landmarks like Chicago’s Soldier Field, Louisville’s Churchill Downs and Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field.

“This was a way of announcing to the rest of the United States, ‘We are here, and we are here in large numbers,’” Millies said. The rituals, he added, served as a reminder that while Catholics had arrived as Americans, they were distinct from their neighbors.

These mass piety events began to wane by the 1950s. The reformist Second Vatican Council of the 1960s spawned simpler liturgies increasing lay involvement, though today some are working to revive older ways . Catholics are more diverse while also facing an increasingly secular culture.

“Catholics aren’t the same as we were 100 years ago,” Millies said. “The world has changed around us. Eucharistic piety is one form of devotion in the Catholic Church. There are many others. It doesn’t speak to everybody.”

He also questioned the event’s timing.

“I would find it very hard to accept this is a coincidence this is happening in an election year,” he said.

Pilgrimage participants, however, spoke in personal and spiritual terms.

Katherine Ball of St. Clairsville, Ohio, who joined Friday’s procession with fellow members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, dressed in its medieval black cape and veil, choked back tears as she spoke of how the presence of the Eucharist helped console her after losing her parents to cancer.

Weeks earlier, she said, she happened to drive alongside the well-marked van in which the perpetual pilgrims were traveling, with the host displayed in the monstrance. She stayed close to the van for some time, her spirits lifting as she recalled a saint’s writing that “Jesus never travels alone” but brings all of heaven into the Eucharist.

“I know that when I receive Holy Communion, I’m unified with my parents, and this is just a foretaste of heaven,” she said.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on with two-month nationwide pilgrimage

Peter Smith

Associated Press

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Bishop Edward Lohse, apostolic administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, left, hands the Eucharist to the Rev. Roger Landry as they board a boat on the Ohio River as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, at the Steubenville Marina in Steubenville, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – “Bye bye, Jesus!” a child called out as the riverboat chugged away from shore into the Ohio River, a solemn bell tolling amid the thrumming of an old-fashioned sternwheel.

Two Catholic bishops on board, representing dioceses on each side of the river, took turns holding aloft the guest of honor — the consecrated Eucharistic host, in which Catholics believe Jesus is truly present in the Communion bread.

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Scores of devotees watched reverently from the shore on Sunday — nuns and families with clusters of young children — fingering rosaries, uttering prayers, singing quietly. Some knelt on the gravel surface.

The event culminated three days of devotions in this small Ohio city, launched by a procession through downtown streets on a sweltering Friday evening, where hundreds of devotees passed bars, shops, vacant storefronts and the curious stares of residents in folding chairs.

Among those in the procession were seminarians in black cassocks, nuns in habits, girls in First Communion dresses, and members of lay orders in traditional garb. One girl’s T-shirt proclaimed, “Get holy or die tryin’.”

It’s just a snapshot of a wider project. Catholic pilgrims are in the middle of a two-month journey on four routes across the United States. They're planning to converge on Indianapolis in mid-July for a climactic stadium gathering called the National Eucharistic Congress, the first such event in more than 80 years.

Everywhere, the center of attention is the Eucharistic host, held in a golden vessel known as a monstrance.

“The pilgrimage is a really exciting opportunity for us to literally walk with Jesus, like the apostles did,” said Zoe Dongas, one of a small group of “perpetual” pilgrims traveling an entire route.

Starting in May in New Haven, Connecticut, her group has processed through cities, ridden by boat to the Statue of Liberty and trekked through rural Pennsylvania in a heat wave. The group will travel from West Virginia across Ohio to Indianapolis, meeting up with pilgrims who started from California, Texas and Minnesota.

Organizers are hoping that — as with the child on the riverbank — the enterprise reinforces the core Catholic belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, and not just symbolized by bread and wine, as many Protestants believe.

Some have questioned the need for the event, and the congress’s $14 million cost — saying belief in the Eucharist is stronger than feared, that the event is only appealing to those already drawn to traditional piety and that it’s partly the byproduct of a political debate.

But Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, said reinforcing Eucharistic faith is crucial.

“If that is weakened in our people, then they’ll be weakened in their response to Christ and to the service of God and neighbor that they’re supposed to offer,” Brennan said aboard the boat taking him and his counterpart from the Diocese of Steubenville downriver toward Wheeling.

If the scenes in Steubenville seemed like something out of another era, they are.

The last time a Eucharistic National Congress was held, it was in an era when urban Catholics thronged to massive devotional parades and stadium events. That kind of traditional piety began waning by mid-20th century.

But Steubenville, a Rust Belt city showing the wear of its post-industrial years, is a hub for some hoping to revive traditional piety. The region is home to a conservative Catholic university, a Catholic family camp and a cluster of religious orders.

This weekend, participants spoke of the Eucharist simply as Jesus.

The idea of taking Jesus out on a riverboat was natural in light of the assigned gospel reading at Sunday Mass, in which Jesus rides in a boat with his disciples and miraculously calms a storm, said Steubenville seminarian Sam Ivkovich.

“He preached from boats, so this seems fitting,” Ivkovich said on the wind-whipped Wellsburg Bridge, where he gathered with several devotees to kneel, sing and pray as the boat passed below.

The pilgrimages sprang from deliberations among U.S. bishops.

Their 2021 document , “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” arose amid debate over whether bishops should withhold Communion from Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden or Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrats who supported abortion rights. Following cautionary signals from the Vatican, the document ultimately did not directly address that question, though it called on Catholics to examine whether they align with church teachings.

Some bishops cited a 2019 survey that found most church members don’t believe Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist. Bishops devised a three-year focus on the doctrine, culminating in pilgrimages and the Indianapolis gathering.

Some researchers have cast doubt on the original survey’s phrasing.

A follow-up by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in 2022 used multiple phrasings and found that 64% of Catholics expressed belief in Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist in at least one response. Virtually all Catholics who attend Mass weekly affirmed this belief, according to the Georgetown University-based center.

This raises the question of whether the pilgrimage and congress amount to “a solution in search of a problem,” said Steven Millies, professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He wondered if bishops’ real worry is over Catholics’ “lost sense of difference” from a society they have assimilated into.

In the early to mid-20th century, when Catholics were defined by growing communities of European immigrants and their descendants, they gathered by the scores of thousands for Eucharistic and other traditional devotions at landmarks like Chicago’s Soldier Field, Louisville’s Churchill Downs and Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field.

“This was a way of announcing to the rest of the United States, ‘We are here, and we are here in large numbers,’” Millies said. The rituals, he added, served as a reminder that while Catholics had arrived as Americans, they were distinct from their neighbors.

These mass piety events began to wane by the 1950s. The reformist Second Vatican Council of the 1960s spawned simpler liturgies increasing lay involvement, though today some are working to revive older ways . Catholics are more diverse while also facing an increasingly secular culture.

“Catholics aren’t the same as we were 100 years ago," Millies said. "The world has changed around us. Eucharistic piety is one form of devotion in the Catholic Church. There are many others. It doesn’t speak to everybody.”

He also questioned the event’s timing.

“I would find it very hard to accept this is a coincidence this is happening in an election year,” he said.

Pilgrimage participants, however, spoke in personal and spiritual terms.

Katherine Ball of St. Clairsville, Ohio, who joined Friday’s procession with fellow members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, dressed in its medieval black cape and veil, choked back tears as she spoke of how the presence of the Eucharist helped console her after losing her parents to cancer.

Weeks earlier, she said, she happened to drive alongside the well-marked van in which the perpetual pilgrims were traveling, with the host displayed in the monstrance. She stayed close to the van for some time, her spirits lifting as she recalled a saint’s writing that “Jesus never travels alone” but brings all of heaven into the Eucharist.

“I know that when I receive Holy Communion, I’m unified with my parents, and this is just a foretaste of heaven,” she said.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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    May 27 - August 31, 2024. Child rate: $66. Child age: 3 to 12 years old. Tour overview: The perfect Fairbanks day tour combines river views and Alaska Native history and traditions! Climb aboard the Riverboat Discovery III for an unforgettable 3-hour cruise into Alaska's history. Travel the Chena and Tanana Rivers on Alaska's only authentic ...

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  24. On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on ...

    STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — "Bye bye, Jesus!" a child called out as the riverboat chugged away from shore into the Ohio River, a solemn bell tolling amid the thrumming of an old-fashioned ...

  25. On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on with two

    STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — "Bye bye, Jesus!" a child called out as the riverboat chugged away from shore into the Ohio River, a solemn bell tolling amid the thrumming of an old-fashioned ...

  26. On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on with two

    A riverboat carrying the Eucharist cruises down the Ohio River between Wellsburg, West Virginia, and Brilliant, Ohio, Sunday, June 23, 2024. The voyage is part of a two-month series of cross-country pilgrimages focused on the Eucharist, seeking to raise devotion around a sacrament in which Catholics believe they encounter Jesus' real presence.

  27. On heartland roads, and a riverboat, devout Catholics press on with two

    STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - "Bye bye, Jesus!" a child called out as the riverboat chugged away from shore into the Ohio River, a solemn bell tolling amid the thrumming of an old-fashioned sternwheel.