Discover the Biggest Steamboat in Mississippi River History

Written by Jennifer Hollohan
Updated: March 8, 2023
© Joseph Sohm/
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The Mississippi River runs through a large portion of middle America. It is the subject of countless tales and lore. And its history inspires generations to discover more about the intriguing river. Throughout history, travelers have cruised down the Mississippi. The steamboat revolutionized river travel and is now one of the most iconic vessels to carry passengers on the river. Since the size of the Mississippi River can accommodate large vessels, some of the steamboats that cruised the waters were quite large. And that immediately brings a question to mind. What is the biggest steamboat in Mississippi River history? Keep reading to learn about this magnificent vessel. 

How Big is the Mississippi River?

Surprisingly, there is no consensus on the length of the Mississippi River. You will receive a different answer depending on which agency you speak to. The EPA puts it at 2,320 miles long. The US Geologic Survey claims it is 2,300 miles long. And the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area agree with the National Park Service that it is 2,350 miles long. Its length varies, ranging from 20 feet at its most narrow section to over 11 miles wide around Lake Winnibigoshish, Minnesota. It begins its journey up north, at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, and works its way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The only river in the United States longer than the Mississippi River is the Missouri River. 

Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the second largest river in the United States.


What is the Biggest Steamboat?

The biggest steamboat to ever travel on the Mississippi River is the American Queen. It was constructed in 1995 and christened on June 2, 1995. Unfortunately, an enormous tabasco bottle got smashed against the side instead of champagne since she got christened in New Orleans. It was built in Morgan City, Louisiana, by the McDermott Shipyard. And cost her owners, the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, $80 million. The paddle boat got designed to replicate the historic riverboats that once floated on the Mississippi. It joined its sisters, the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen, on the river. Then in 2011, the American Queen Steamboat Company purchased her. 

American Queen steamboat
The American Queen steamboat is the largest steamboat ever to navigate the Mississippi River.

©Vicki L. Miller/

How Big is the American Queen?

The American Queen has six decks that house 222 staterooms. It can hold up to 160 crew members and 436 passengers. She is 89 feet wide and 418 feet long! 

What Does the American Queen Look Like?

When you book a voyage on the American Queen, you take a step back into history. She resembles a majestic boat you board in the Victorian era. There is mahogany wood, Tiffany glass, carpets adorned with flowers, and plenty of antiques to set the mood. All inside furnishings got specifically chosen to replicate an authentic ride on a Victorian steamboat.

Outside, you will find a gleaming red paddle wheel and open verandas so guests can enjoy the views! But the Victorian stage is genuinely set with the historians that regale passengers with lore, stories, Mark Twain readings, and Lewis and Clark adventures. Additionally, guests can enjoy Broadway-style shows.

American Queen on the Mississippi
The American Queen is a stunning replica of a Victorian-era steamboat.

©Joseph Sohm/

How Can You Ride on the American Queen?

Taking a ride on the American Queen is well worth the investment. Each all-inclusive voyage will immerse you in the culture and history of the United States. But more specifically, the journey will let you delve into the unique world of river towns. 
All you need to do is conduct a quick search on their website to see what cruise calls to you. For example, the American Queen makes port all along the Mississippi. So you can choose your own adventure. You can choose from longer voyages or shorter hops between ports.

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American Queen on the Mississippi
American Queen on the Mississippi
© Joseph Sohm/

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About the Author

Jennifer is a writer, Nutritionist, and Herbalist, and hobby gardener. She is passionate about writing and enjoys digging into new, unique topics. When not glued to the computer screen, she loves hanging out with her kids, working in her garden, and crafting crazy culinary delights.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When were steamboats used on the Mississippi River?

The very first steamboat to hit the Mississippi waters was named the Virginia. She launched in 1823.

What is the oldest Mississippi steamboat still in operation?

The Belle of Louisville got christened in 1914, and passengers can still take a trip on it today.

How fast can a steamboat go up the Mississippi River?

Sit back and enjoy the slow ride. Steamboats top out at about 5 miles per hour when they traverse the Mississippi. However, while that is slow by today’s standards, it revolutionized travel when the boats first launched.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. Cruising the Mighty Mississippi, Available here:,of%20a%20classic%20Mississippi%20riverboat
  2. National Park Service, Available here:,river's%20length%20is%202%2C350%20miles
  3. (1970)