The Working River Also Plays

Contests and competition between the boats on the Mississippi have probably happened since the second watercraft was launched. The stakes undoubtedly moved from shells to furs to doubloons to gold eagles. Paddles became paddlewheels with the advent of steam on the working river. The races between the Mississippi steamboats have become legend.

It has been many years since the towboats on the Upper Mississippi pitted themselves against each other. For those new to the working river, it should be noted that a towboat doesn't "tow." It pushes, using a massively reinforced front structure. Another name for a towboat is a "tug." But it doesn't "tug" anything either. It pushes—a lot.

The rededication of Phase I of Harriet Island Regional Park on September 9th, 2000, saw a rebirth of competitive spirit among the upper river boats and their crews. The event drew six boats, and Captain Bill Bowell of the Paddleford Packet Boat Company agreed to announce the competition. In the order of their appearance, the following boats competed.








The J. L. Fleming








The Sophie Rose









The Patrick Gannaway









The Brand Marie















The Mary Jenny












The Pat Pickett