HUNTINGTON — The sternwheel steamboat Belle of Louisville should pass Huntington on Friday as it makes its way to a drydock at Gallipolis, Ohio.
The 106-year-old boat is heading to the Amherst Madison dock at Gallipolis for its five-year Coast Guard inspection and winterizing, said Krista Snider, CEO of Belle of Louisville Riverboats.
“She’s in great shape, and we’re just trying to keep her that way,” Snider said.
The boat was heading up the Ohio River above Cincinnati at about 7 mph and approaching the Meldahl Locks and Dam around noon Wednesday. It’s running in daylight hours only and was expected to overnight at Maysville, Kentucky, Snider said.
It should reach Gallipolis by the end of the week and be there for its out-of-water inspection and other work for four to six weeks before returning to its home base at Louisville for the winter. The Belle of Louisville will not offer any excursions or public events while it is in this area, Snider said.
“She’s a beautiful boat. I look at her every day and I’m in awe of her,” Snider said.
The Belle offers excursions out of its home port of Louisville. As with other tourist activities, COVID-19 cut into its schedule this year, Snider said.
“Her season typically runs April through October,” Snider said. “April, May and June — what is the fourth quarter of our fiscal year — was wiped out. We usually have a lot of (Kentucky) Derby-related events and festival-related events that did not happen in April and May. We started cruising again when we were able to, which was Father’s Day weekend.”
The Belle of Louisville was built in 1914 and is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the United States. It’s the only steamboat in the nation to have reached the age of 100, as many boats of its era had short lives. Its steam engines date back to the mid-1800s and still function.
Before the Delta Queen ceased overnight cruises after the 2009 season, it and the Belle of Louisville staged an annual race at Louisville during Kentucky Derby week.