Drought causes problems for American Queen

(WMC-TV) – The excessive heat and lack of rain is causing problems for the American Queen Steamboat.

River levels are dropping fast and forcing steam boat pilots to re-think the way they come in and out of Memphis.

When you take a look at the American Queen, the first thing you notice is that the ship is docked at Mud Island's Greenbelt Park instead of its usual place two miles downstream at Beale's Street Landing. That is because the river water is so low.

"So the challenges for us, number one, is moving all of our guests. Down here, we had about 403 guests get off and board about 300," explained John Waggoner, Great American Steamboat Company.

Jimmy Ogle gives lectures on the American Queen and he says river levels won't get as low as the record set back in 1988, but he says to some people it may seem like it.

"In 1988, it got down to minus 10.7. That's the all time low in 1988. I could hit a golf ball across the miss river it was only 500 feet wide, it's usually three-quarters of a mile wide," said Jimmy Ogle.

For workers on the American Queen, this low water has it challenges and getting passengers, food, and other supplies on board. It calls for extra planning.

"But the good news is it's a great facility here. We've got two golf carts going we got vans going and so we are trying to make it as seamless for our guest as possible," said Waggoner.

And low water is not just a Memphis problem.

The American Queen experienced similar low water challenges in Louisville and other steamboat stops.

The question a lot of people are asking right now is, "How long will the river stay this low before it comes back up?"

Some say it could take weeks. Some say months.

Ogle says it all depends on how much rainwater goes into the northern waterways that feed into the Mississippi river and how soon that rain begins to fall.

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