America’s Queen: Defining Beauty On Water | Travel Research Online


America’s Queen: Defining Beauty On Water

Yesterday, for about an hour, we traveled alongside the American Queen as she made her way downriverfrom Dubuque, Iowa, en route to Davenport. The day was extremely windy, but sunny, and we were grateful for the ride on a small tug, even though midday is typically not the best time to take photographs or film because of the harsh sunlight.

Yesterday, we traveled behind and alongside the American Queen. What makes her so beautiful? The paddlewheel, her twin smokestacks, her American Victorian Era opulence? © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Still, even in those conditions, we managed to get a few good photos and some good video footage of the American Queen, thanks in no small part to the fact that she is such a strikingly beautiful vessel.

What is it that gives the American Queen her beauty? I would be hard pressed to single out one element.

Is it her bright red paddlewheel? Indeed, it is remarkable to see the paddlewheel in action, long pistons plunging to and fro to spin the wheel round and round.

A few days ago, I stood on deck 2, just outside the Engine Room Lounge, for 30 minutes just watching the paddlewheel at work. The wheel descends into the water and emerges above the river’s surface, carrying drops of water with it that fall back into the river as the wheel turns.

Maybe it is the cyclical nature of the movement, combined with the calming properties of the water that make the paddlewheel so aesthetically appealing. At any rate, I was mesmerized for half an hour.

For the curious among you: The wheel alone powers the vessel, although side thrusters are used to help it maneuver into ports. She would perform miserably at sea, I am sure, but on the rivers she is queen.

Crowning the American Queen are two black smokestacks that lower when passing under bridges. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Perhaps equally as beautiful are the twin, black smokestacks topped with what resembles the crowns of a royal family — the thrown of a queen perhaps?

These giant stacks pivot on their bases to lower themselves, as if bowing, before passing under low bridges. The Pilot House also descends to make it beneath bridges.

The stacks, in my eyes, are beautiful works of art, puffing smoke from the diesel engines when the going gets tough upstream and appearing  relaxed as the current of the Mississippi River sweeps us downstream.

Mesmerized by the motion of the red paddlewheel. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Or perhaps the most appealing element of the American Queen is her American Victorian era opulence.

As I said in the beginning, it is hard to single out one element that makes this vessel so beautiful, but you know what? No one is pressing for an answer, so I will leave it at this: She is what she is, simply beauty on water.

Beauty on Water: The American Queen on the Mississippi River. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at

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