(Memphis, TN) The Mississippi River is just days away from reaching record low levels.
River traffic is moving at a snail’s pace and some barge companies can no longer transport goods.
Even the American Queen Steamboat can’t safely navigate the river.
The huge vessel is tied up at the north end of Harbor Town, unable to finish a trip to Vicksburg.
John Sutton is captain of the American Queen Steamboat, “We’re always disappointed when we can’t full-fill a total voyage. But first and foremost always is the safety of our passengers.”
Sutton told us the river is so low, that on Wednesday, her 300 or so passengers had to disembark at Memphis and continue their trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi by bus, “At 0700 this morning we were at a minus 8.2. So, we’re less than three feet away from the all time historical low in 1988.”
That’s when the river at Memphis hit minus 10.8 feet.
The American Queen needs eight and a half feet of water to float.
Even though the southbound “Queen” has the right-of-way, the river channel is too narrow to share with towboats and barges.
Friday afternoon, passengers from vicksburg will arrive here by bus to make the trip back north bound.
The crew spent Friday taking on supplies and keeping the “floating hotel” river worthy.
The low river hasn’t stopped the Memphis Queen Riverboat Company from “staying afloat.”
Their boats only need five feet of water to navigate according to Captain James Gilmer, “We’re not shut down. We’re still running everyday, seven days a week and we’re going to continue to run.”
Captain Gilmer says his crew keeps a sharp eye out for new sandbars.
Rob and Karen Parsons, from the U.K., are in Memphis for Elvis week and made time for a cruise on the river.
Karen wasn’t about to let low river levels keep her on dry land, “Of course, the Mississippi is one of the most famous rivers. You can’t come to Memphis and not go down the Mississippi.”
Back on the American Queen, it wasn’t a total loss for passengers boarding Friday afternoon.
The captain told us he and the crew are planning a short dinner cruise on with Memphis’ skyline as a backdrop.