Dwight Turner - Belle of Louisville
Dwight Turner – Belle of Louisville

The oldest steam paddle ship

I felt like I stepped back in time as I journeyed up the Ohio River on the Belle of Louisville. The Belle of Louisville is the oldest steam-powered paddle ship in existence. It was fascinating to explore the ship and experience the Belle’s history. I watched as the 100+-year-old engine turned the giant, red paddle wheel through the water. I learned that each paddle has a limited lifespan and is replaced every one to two years. The Belle was built by James Rees & Sons Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the West Memphis Packet Company in 1914. The Belle of Louisville was put into service on the Allegheny River and eventually made her way to the Ohio River where she resides today.

I was granted permission to stand in the furnace room and observe the intense fires creating steam that powered the Belle. The flames were so hot they appeared white as they cast magnificent shadows across the warm room. That steam also powered a brass calliope that played songs before the ship left port. The calliope sounded less like an organ and more like the carnival music I remember from my childhood. Steam shot from pipes on the roof as the music played. It was fascinating to see and hear this historic musical instrument in action.

Not a dining destination

The dining room was expansive with large windows to view the passing shoreline. There was plenty of food to satisfy the hungry appetite. Here was the biggest disappointment. The food was good though not great. But this journey was not about the food. This journey was about the history and the fun of riding on the oldest steam paddle ship.

The top deck was the perfect place to sit, relax, and take in the view as the Belle made her way up the calm river. Standing on the stern of ship and watching the giant red paddles cut into the water, and propel the Belle forward, was my favorite part of the cruise. I have sailed on a number of ships and nothing quite compares to the spectacle of a steam powered paddle ship.

A little rain makes it exciting

The Easter journey on the Belle came with fifteen minutes of intense rain that made the trip even more exciting, especially on a warm day. The rain approached from the southern section of the river like a sheer, white curtain. I watched as everyone ran for cover in their fashionable Easter clothes. It gave me a chuckle as I rushed to stay dry. I enjoyed riding on the Belle and consider it one of the many pleasantries found in Kentucky. #louisville #belleoflouisville #rivercruise #historical #ohioriver #louisvillekentucky #dwightturner

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