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The Belle of Louisville Paddlewheel Steamboat

Cruise the Ohio River on Paddlewheel Steamboats

Written by Julie Greiner
The authentic paddlewheel steamboats that cruise the Ohio River are owned by Jefferson County, Kentucky. They are docked out of Louisville and offer an experience of enjoying a romantic and historic excursion that is matched by none. You can spend the afternoon cruising the Ohio River aboard an authentic paddlewheel steamboat from out of the past.

The Belle of Louisville

The Belle of Louisville was built by the James Rees & Sons Company in 1914 and was originally named the Idlewild. The Belle of Louisville has a capacity of some 800 passengers and is equipped with a concession stand, bar, dance floor, stage and
indoor and outdoor seating. The Belle originally floated on the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh. Her frame sits atop a steel hull that needs only five feet of water to float, which enables her to navigate in almost any waterway in the country. The Belle, then named Idlewild, was a passenger ferry boat between Memphis, Tennessee and West Memphis, Arkansas and also carried cargo of lumber, grain and cotton. She became a Tramp steamboat in the 1920's when she was used for excursions on the Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi
Cruising the Ohio River on The Belle of Louisville Paddlewheel Steamboat
and Missouri Rivers. During World War II she was fitted with special equipment to push oil barges along the Ohio River out of Louisville and also served as a floating USO nightclub for troops stationed at bases along the Mississippi. In 1934 she was purchased at auction with Jefferson County funds and underwent extensive renovations and the new name of the Belle of Louisville. The Belle is now recognized as the oldest river steamboat still in operation and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The Belle is celebrating her 88th year in 2002 and has the distinction of
outlasting all other river steamboats in American history and traveled to more places and paddled more miles.

The Spirit of Jefferson

The Spirit of Jefferson shares the Ohio River with The Belle of Louisville and is also owned by Jefferson County, Kentucky. The Spirit was originally built by the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Company as the Mark Twain in 1963 in Iowa, for the Louisiana bayou for the Streckfus Steamers of St. Louis, Missouri. The Spirit was operating as a dinner and sightseeing cruise boat out of St. Louis, then going
The Spirit of Jefferson Paddlewheel Steamboat on The Ohio River
by the name of the Huck Finn when she was purchased by Jefferson County, Kentucky in 1995. The Spirit of Jefferson has a capacity of 300 passengers and is fully heated, air conditioned and has a concession stand, bar, dance floor, stage and indoor and outdoor seating. The Spirit spends part of her season in downtown Louisville and also cruises out of southwest Jefferson County. A new dock at Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing has recently been built. riverside is a restored 19th century farmhouse with views of the river in the southwest part of the county. A new area in the boat's history is beginning with the formation of Riverside.

Cruise the Ohio on a Paddlewheel Steamboat

Both the Spirit of Jefferson
Enjoying a Sunset Cruize on The Spirit of Jefferson Paddlewheel Steamboat
and the Belle of Louisville are operated by Hornblower marine Services which is a private company. The vessels are offered for private parties and occasions along with regularly scheduled public excursions.No visit to Louisville would be complete without a cruise down the Ohio River on either the Spirit of Jefferson or the Belle of Louisville.
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Last Updated: September 23, 2015