Think Mississippi River and songs such as Ol’ Man River from the musical Show Boat and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come to mind.
This rich tapestry of music and literature has been created by the people who have lived along the Mississippi, the second longest river in North America.
It’s a land which has been personified by slow-moving paddle steamers, elegant mansions, cotton fields and farmland.
And soon, it will have a new landmark – a custom built ship, Viking Mississippi, will debut in August 2022. Currently under construction in Louisiana, the Viking Mississippi, will be the largest and most modern ship plying the river.
Viking has just opened reservations for its inaugural 2022-23 season which will sail the Lower and Upper Mississippi River between New Orleans and St Paul.
Viking chairman Torstein Hagen said that since bookings were opened to past guests on 30 March 2020, some departure dates have already nearly sold out.
“At a time where many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river.”
“Our guests are curious travellers and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. No other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture,” he said.
The five-deck ship can accommodate 386 guests and feature clean Scandinavian design including the signature Explorers’ Lounge and the 360-Degree Promenade Deck.
Currently scheduled ports of call on Viking Mississippi include seven North American states including Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul).
So what can you expect when sailing on the Mississippi River? We give you some of the best highlights.
The mighty Mississippi River originates from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, flowing 3778km through the centre of continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Only the Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi River is longer by 160km.
White settlers from Europe and the United States arrived on steamboats dispossessing the Native Americans of their lands and converting the landscape into farms and cities.
Today, the Mississippi River powers a significant segment of the economy in the upper Midwest. Barges and their tows move approximately 175 million tonnes of freight each year on the upper Mississippi through a system of 29 locks and dams. It is also a major recreational resource for boaters, canoeists, hunters, anglers, and birdwatchers and offers many outdoor opportunities.
The Mississippi River and its floodplain are also home to an abundantly diverse population of wildlife.
At least 260 species of fish live in the river. This includes catfish, carp and garfish. About 40 per cent of the country’s migratory waterfowl use the river during their spring and fall migration. Another 60 per cent of all North American birds use the river basin as their migratory flyway.
Mussels abound in the river especially in the Lower Mississippi which boasts some 60 species. There are at last 145 species of amphibians and reptiles which inhabit the Upper Mississippi River.
An estimated eight million ducks, geese, swans and other birds spend the winter months in the lower part of the river.
THE MAIN PORTS
Saint Paul, Minnesota
St Paul is the birthplace of cartoonist Charles M Schulz of Peanuts fame. His Snoopy cartoon and other Peanuts sculptures decorate the city. Writer F Scott Fitzgerald also lived in the city. St Paul is also known for its diverse, traditional and contemporary eateries and an acclaimed arts scene – all served with friendly Midwestern manners.
Red Wing, Minnesota
The city was named after a celebrated Sioux chief and is known for its American-made Red Wing Shoes which produced footwear for soldiers in World War I and II. The wheat growing county offers tours to the National Eagle Centre where guests can learn about eagle biology and natural history. Lake Pepin and Barn Bluff offer exciting tours for adrenalin junkies.
La Crosse, Wisconsin
This bike-friendly destination offers challenging trails, paddling adventures and craft breweries. You can also go for an optional tour to Decorah in Iowa with its small town charm and home to the second-best brewery in the world.
Here you will be able to capture life along the Mississippi during the great steamboat era. Visit the Mathias Ham House built by the city’s earliest settlers in the opulent Victorian lifestyle of a booming river town before the Civil War. Shop at Galena’s Main Street with 100 antique shops, pubs, wine bars and restaurants.
You can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Mississippi from Mosquito Park, followed by a stroll along Snake Alley, the “crookedest street in the world.” Step back in time at the Old Fort Madison and discover military life as it was lived in the rugged frontier of the Louisiana Territory.
The birthplace of author Mark Twain, this was the setting for his book, Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You can visit Twain’s Boyhood Home and Museum with its extensive collection of Twain memorabilia.
St Louis, Missouri
Known as the Gateway to the West, St Louis has many celebrated architectural treasures including the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis with its 41 million piece mosaic, the Renaissance Revival City Hall and the Museum at the Gateway Arch.
The birthplace of Memphis blues, the Queen City of the South has some of the best music, cuisine and character on Beale Street. The street is renowned for its American blues, country, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll music where Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, BB King and many other legends created a uniquely American musical genre. You can also take a tour to Graceland where the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley spent his final days.
You can immediately feel the Southern tradition that flows through the city’s veins. The city is also rich in Civil War history and during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called it “the key to the South.” The war’s most pivotal conflict, the Battle of Vicksburg was fought here.
This city has weathered three centuries of tumult and transformation. Born 300 years ago on the banks of the Mississippi River, there were more millionaires per capita who lived in Natchez before the Civil War. Today, the city has more opulent and elegant mansions in the country with nearly well preserved 700 homes open to the public. It is amazing that many of the houses have delicate porcelain dishes and Waterford crystal gasoliers preserved through the Civil War to present day.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Nicknamed the “Big Easy”, the colourful city of New Orleans is known for its round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music scene and spicy, Creole cuisine – a throwback to its melting pot of French, African and American cultures. The best time to visit New Orleans is from February to May when the weather is cool and the celebrations are in full swing, especially the Mardi Gras known for its raucous costumed parades and street parties. The heart of the city is the famed French Quarter where you will see French and Spanish Creole architecture and join in the pulsating nightlife on Bourbon Street.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Experience fun-loving Cajun people talk about their contributions to Louisiana’s history and culture. You can go for a Cajun heritage tour or an exploration of Atchafalaya Basin by boat or canoe.
For more information visit vikingcruises.com.au or phone 138747