Royal riverboat makes return visit to Huntington

June 30, 2018

HUNTINGTON — For the second time this week, a queen has been sighted in the city of Huntington.

On Wednesday evening, the Queen of the Mississippi, one of the largest sternwheeler boats on the Ohio River, made its second unexpected stop in Huntington due to high river levels.

The first stop occurred Sunday, June 24, with a different group of passengers on board. Crew members said the boat had to bank on the shoreline of the Ohio as the dock at Harris Riverfront Park was fully submerged. When the boat returned Wednesday, the water had receded to a level that allowed the Queen to properly dock at the same location.

The vessel originally was scheduled to stop in Marietta, Ohio, on the way to its turnaround location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

But according to the National Weather Service, Ohio River water levels in Marietta rose two feet from Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, and Queen of the Mississippi Chief Mate Micheil McLeod said high water on the river would prevent the 52-foottall ship from passing under bridges in some places.

The amended itinerary had the Queen turn around in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, headed west to its return destination in St. Louis, Missouri.

After stopping in Huntington overnight Sunday, passengers traveling east disembarked in Point Pleasant and were bused to Pittsburgh. The westbound passengers then boarded the buses and were taken to the dock station in Point Pleasant to begin their journey.

After the crew made contact with city officials in Huntington, the boat and its crew safely docked at Harris Riverfront Park on Wednesday evening. Passengers had the opportunity to explore the city on predetermined tours Thursday morning.

Tyson Compton, Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said the Queen’s travelers were treated like royalty.

“We regret that they encountered this difficulty on their trip,” Compton said, “but we are certainly glad they chose to visit Huntington instead. Our staff and partners will do all we can to ensure that they have a lovely visit while here.”

Three motor coaches transported guests to iconic locations in Huntington, with two buses traveling to Heritage Farm Museum and Village and the other to Marshall University’s main campus. Passenger Wiley Green said he enjoyed the chance to explore Heritage Farm, something he otherwise would never have been able to do had the water level been lower.

“It was great. I wish we could have spent twice as much time there,” Green said. “Going through some of those buildings, I thought it looked a lot like my barn. We’ve got all the same stuff, except it was so beautifully arranged there. I think I’m going to have to clean up my barn.”

Green said passengers were told Monday that their first stop en route to St. Louis would be in Huntington, a city he had no previous knowledge of. The unexpected visit did not bother him, though.

“Wherever it stops, I’ll get off and enjoy it,” he laughed.

Follow reporter Luke Creasy at Facebook.com/creasyHD or on Twitter @lewk_creasy.