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Paddleboat arrives at Fort Myers dock

By Staff | Aug 3, 2012

PHOTO PROVIDED The true paddle-driven Indian Princess is now docked at Fort Myers Beach and offers private and public cruises of the Caloosahatchee River and back bays.

Southwest Floridia residents and visitors can now step back in time by traveling the back bays and Caloosahatchee River on a double deck authentic paddleboat.

The Indian Princess is a 60-foot paddleboat that recently arrived in Fort Myers from Tennessee. The flat-bottomed, paddle-driven sternwheeler travels between five to six knots and can navigate very shallow drafts. The boat can cruise the back bays of Estero Island and up the Caloosahatchee River.

The authentic replica of an American steamship was originally built in Wisconsin in 2001. Riverboats, mostly paddle wheelers, have traveled the waters of America’s great rivers since Robert Fulton invented the steam engine in 1800. Mark Twain wrote of these vessels in his many books including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The shallow drafts of the boats allow them to navigate the many sandbars and meandering banks of the Mississippi. The boats carry a retractable swing bridge at their bow allowing them to head directly into banks for loading and unloading of cargo or passengers.

Through the early settlement of the Midwest, rivers were the primary method of moving goods and people. Riverboats on the Mississippi took wood and produce to markets down the river, including to New Orleans, for international export and brought manufactured goods to the communities upriver.

As states passed increasing laws against gambling in the 1820s and 1830s, gamblers moved to the riverboats. This was partially because the Mississippi forms a number of state borders and it was not within the jurisdiction of any one state law.

In the 20th Century, especially under Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, the Mississippi was made easier to navigate. Dams, locks and levees were built, and by 1930 diesel-powered tugboats and barges had replaced the last of the steamboats.

Many modern paddleboats are driven by hidden underwater screws while the paddles simply spin idly in the water. The Indian Princess is truly paddle driven, though for reasons of efficiency, weight and pollution, the wood burning boilers of long ago have been replaced by clean-burning diesel engines.

The Princess Room is located on the first deck. This comfortable, air conditioned room has a full service bar, catering area, restrooms, sound system and a state-of-the-art 48-inch flat screen TV capable of monitoring several areas of the boat and waterway.

Seating capacity for the interior lower level is 85 persons. Catering can be arranged through the Indian Princess staff if needed.

On the exterior top deck, guests can enjoy cold beverages, live music and spectacular views of the back bays of Fort Myers Beach.

Unless reserved for a private charter, the Indian Princess offers daily cruises from 2 to 4 p.m. as well as sunset cruises. Tickets start at $20 for adults and $15 for children for the two-hour cruise along the back bay of Fort Myers Beach and Ostego Bay. These cruises are popular for their wildlife sightseeing environment.

The boat is also available for private rental for sightseeing and sunset cruises as well as weddings, corporate events and private parties.

Services include catering, event planning, DJs or live entertainment, full bar with top shelf liquor, beer and wines, soda, juice, coffee, tea and bottled water.

The Indian Princess is docked before the sky bridge at 2080 Main Street next to the Key West Express on Fort Myers Beach.

For more information, call (239) 357-8919 or visit www.indianprincessfortmyers.com.