She's the ninth steamer to bear the name NATCHEZ. It was her predecessor, NATCHEZ VI, that raced the ROBERT E. LEE in the most famous steamboat race of all time. Even today, the NATCHEZ is proudly the undisputed champion of the Mississippi, never having been beaten in a race. In many ways, she's the best of her line.
It's a line that follows the course of river history, from the placid antebellum plantation era through the turbulence of the Civil War to the Gay Nineties, and, ultimately, the new millennium.
When the New Orleans Steamboat Company launched the NATCHEZ in 1975, they revived more than a famous name. They created one of only two true steam-powered sternwheelers plying the Mississippi today. The NATCHEZ combines the best of contemporary construction, safety, and comfort standards with all the authenticity and style of her classic steamboat gothic predecessors.
The NATCHEZ resembles the old sternwheelers VIRGINIA and HUDSON in her profile and layout. Her powerful steam engines were built for U.S. Steel Corporation's sternwheeler CLAIRTON in 1925. Her genuine copper and steel steam whistle is a treasured antique. Her copper bell, smelted from 250 silver dollars to produce a purer tone, once graced the S.S. J.D. AYRES. Her 32 note steam calliope was custom crafted and modeled after the music makers of the Gilded Age.
The NATCHEZ is the pride of the Mississippi River and is as beautiful as any of her namesakes. Many of her crew have been with her since her maiden voyage. Theirs is a whole new chapter in the history of the river, and you can be a part of it. Her daily two-hour jazz cruises depart from the Toulouse St. Wharf (behind JAX Brewery in the French Quarter) at 11:30 A.M.; 2:30 P.M.; and 7:00 P.M.
True to tradition in every detail, boarding the NATCHEZ makes you feel as if you have entered another era. The captain barks his orders through an old-time hand-held megaphone. The calliope trills a melody into the air while the great wheel, 25 tons of white oak, churns the heavy waters of the Mississippi. You soon find yourself slipping into a sense of the old, vast, and timeless river.
As the NATCHEZ glides past the French Quarter and through one of the world's most active ports, you begin to understand the magic of the experience. For all its history and romance, the excitement of riding a steamboat is as real and rich and genuine now as it was a century ago."
Steamboat Races are as old as steamboats themselves. The history of the Natchez boats from the first to the ninth in the lineage includes many steamboat races. The latest race took place on Valentine's Day 2003 with the Natchez paired against the American Queen Steamboat, one of the fleets of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. It was a charity race with proceeds going toward the renovation of St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.
At this time there is not a date set for the next race, but please check for updates later in the year!