Showboat stranded in Memphis due to flooded MS River

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A showboat known for calling Nashville its home is spending some more time in Memphis.

The General Jackson Showboat has been sitting on the Mississippi River in Memphis since last Thursday, March 1. It stopped in Memphis on its way back to Nashville from New Orleans.

The boat was forced to stop in Memphis due to the Mississippi River being above flood stage. Additionally, the Ohio River at Cairo is too high for the boat to fit under the railroad bridge there.

The crew is taking this extended Memphis pit stop in stride.

"I don't call it being stuck here," first mate Ron Moreland said. "It's a safe harbor for us. It's really nice. Until the river falls to the new level, we're here, safe and we're taking care of a few things."

The Mississippi River current is so strong, the General Jackson could only travel 4 mph on its way from New Orleans to Memphis.

The river is expected to crest Friday, at which point the boat may resume its trip home to Nashville.

The boat's first cruise of the season was supposed to be Tuesday in Nashville, and the crew may not head home for another week.

The General Jackson Showboat offers dinner cruises on the Cumberland River in Nashville.  This winter, it was taken down to New Orleans for repairs.

The boat's captain said this is the first time in his 24 years on the riverboat that major flooding made the ride home impossible.

"Current speeds are significant right now," Captain Mike Van Metre said.  "The Mississippi River is a dangerous body of water."

The Mighty Mississippi has been mighty problematic for the crew of the General Jackson. They faced an icy river on the January ride down to dry dock in NOLA, and now a flooded river with a beast of a current is slowing the trip back to Nashville.

"This boat, on average, was moving about 4 miles per hour, and in some spots, we were moving as slowly as 2 miles per hour," Van Metre said.

Further upstream the Ohio River, the next leg of their journey, is so high that the riverboat can't fit under the railroad bridge in Cairo.

So, the General's been stuck in Memphis a week now, waiting for the water level to drop.

Moreland and Van Metre weather the weather as best they can.  Memphis, they agree, has been a wonderful host.

"Oh my, you have a great zoo," Moreland said.  "The zoo is outstanding.  And then you have Beale Street and all the favorite foods here, the BBQ and everything."

"I took some time today and took a 2-3 hour ride on the Greenline," Van Metre said.  "But most of the time, we've been working on the boat."

While the crew spruces up the General, visitors to the Memphis riverfront, like Ashley McDonald and Damon Fowler, gazed upon it.

"This is my first time seeing it, and it's very beautiful," McDonald said. "It's a great sight!"

"You know, it's my first time being in the city," Fowler said, who lives in Norfolk, Virginia.  "I get to see the bridges down here and I've never seen the General Jackson.  I've never heard of it.  It's amazing."

Fresh from its facelift in New Orleans, the 33-year-old riverboat has a shiny new hull and a brand-new paddle wheel.  It also has miles to go before she's back home in 500 miles, to be exact.

"It's nice to be here in Memphis," Van Metre said. "We're happy to see everybody come out to the boat.  We're glad you guys are able to come out and look around a little bit, but unfortunately, we need to be back in Nashville and get back to business."

Memphis area residents still have a few days to come see the General Jackson on the riverfront.

The Mississippi River at Memphis and the Ohio River at Cairo aren't expected to crest and start dropping until this weekend.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.