Published by the Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen
America's Steam & Diesel Riverboat Magazine

Reflections Online

October 2014 represented the 100th anniversary of a unique steamboat, the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, ex-IDLEWILD and AVALON, in a dramatic history of firsts including most rivers and mileage logged.  Capt. Doc Hawley calculates it was some 12,000 miles per year as the AVALON.  A gala celebration was set for October of this year.  There were several belles present including the BELLE OF CINCINNATI and SPIRIT OF PEORIA, many with two legs, but when the BELLE is spoken of here, it is the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE. Continue reading

As I sit here at Wood River, IL, trying to stay warm in near-record cold weather, I decided to tap out a few words for REFLECTIONS ONLINE. While it is cold here and we did have a little cake ice floating by over the last couple of days, it has been nothing like the ice I posted about in my last online article. When I got up this morning it was 6 degrees, but when we arrived here the other… Continue reading

Well, it has been a while since we’ve updated Reflections Online, due solely to laziness on the part of this writer. If you’re interested in excuses: it has been a busy summer, with a family trip to Florida (the boys loved Universal Studios and their first time in the ocean), a trip to the Upper Mississippi town of Savanna, IL (where I did actually do a little S&D business) and work on the m/v MAGNOLIA. Son Jeff came and rode… Continue reading

When Jeff Spear asked Bill Judd and me to do these articles, his idea was to have us give personal anecdotes about working on the river today and how it might relate to historical aspects of river life. Jeff’s thought was that the more things change, the more they stay the same, which is certainly true. Nowadays, we have so many gadgets in the pilothouse of a modern towboat that Captains Fred Way or Jesse Hughes might not even recognize… Continue reading

In our last Reflections Online, we were starting to see the beginnings of a canalized waterway on the Cumberland. In 1892 construction was finally underway at two locks & dams on the Cumberland below Nashville. Stone-filled timber crib dams were used, and the locks were built of stone with dimensions of 280 feet long by 52 feet wide, large enough to accommodate the steamboats operating in the Nashville trade. While it may seem strange that the project started in the… Continue reading

Navigation on the Cumberland began as it did on all the inland rivers – log rafts, flatboats and keelboats floating goods downstream to market. Natural trading centers and towns sprung up along the Cumberland as they did on all waterways, and as the populations and the need for commerce increased, so did the need for an improved waterway. The first steamboat to try the Cumberland was the GENERAL JACKSON in 1818, and the boat started up the Cumberland but was… Continue reading

I thought that with the 70th anniversary of the S&D organization coming up this September that probably most of the members and persons interested in S&D might not have any idea how the group really got started, so here goes with a little history. Now please realize that even in my advanced years I most certainly was not there, so if I make mistakes, please blame those who came before me and remember rivermen are allowed to embellish the truth.… Continue reading

Just prior to the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933, navigation improvements on the Tennessee consisted of two high dams with locks, Hales Bar and Wilson Dams, two lateral canals, the Florence or Lower Muscle Shoals Canal and the Riverton Lock and Canal around Colbert Shoals. There were also two low-lift locks and dams, one below Wilson Lock in the Florence Canal (Lock & Dam #1) and Widows Bar Lock & Dam near Stevenson, Alabama. The U.S. Army… Continue reading

In the State of Tennessee, there are four major cities: Nashville (the Capital) on the Cumberland River, Knoxville and Chattanooga on the Tennessee River, and Memphis on the Mississippi. Residents and businessmen in Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville long tried to utilize the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers for commercial purposes, but were stymied much of the time by low water and not enough water to float boats of any size. A prerequisite for commercial use of any waterway is dependability, and… Continue reading