New Orleans: A Magical Tourist Destination

A Dream Fulfilled

Ever since my childhood, stories about life onboard the fabled paddleboats of the Mississippi River had intrigued me. And so, on a warm, sunny morning, we scurried down to the Mississippi shoreline. We purchased tickets and formed a long line of tourists waiting to board one of the last authentic steamboats on the Mississippi River. The Steamboat Natchez, moored against the dock, belted out its lively calliope tunes as we excitedly waited to board. In no time, we made it to the upper deck near the stern. After finding a small table against the railing, with a perfect view, we ordered drinks and relaxed. There was a magical feeling in the air as we took in the colourful view from the upper deck. Soon the boat’s shrill fog horn sounded, and with a splash of the huge rotating paddlewheel the Natchez slowly eased away from the dock.

To my dismay, it soon became apparent that there was nothing interesting to see along the waterway. During our two-hour tour, the views of both shorelines were disappointing as there was not much of interest to see except large cargo ships, ugly docks, industrial sites and oil storage tanks. I was also surprised to learn that the Mississippi River in this area is very shallow, averaging no more than 15 feet.

Although the water route was boring, it was enjoyable to explore all three decks of this 1200 passenger boat. A close-up view of the gigantic paddles propelling the boat reminded us of the remarkable power of steam. The stationary engineer in the steam engine room slumped in his rickety rocking chair, dozing contentedly as the massive pistons moved back and forth over his head, and made me realize how unimportant he was as long as all the machinery was operating well. The dozing employee was oblivious to the gawking, amused passengers. Even the lively tunes being cranked out all over the vessel by the Steamboat Stompers’ Jazz Band did not disturb his slumber. As for me, I was thrilled to be able to be aboard a steamboat on the mighty Mississippi. My childhood dream had been fulfilled.

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Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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