Dorri Partain

All aboard, for a riverboat cruise on the Missouri River from the Port of Kansas City.

Whether you call them riverboats, steamboats or paddlewheelers, these large vessels were once a common sight and mode of travel more than 100 years ago. In an attempt to bring the adventure and romance of river travel back, Captain Richard “Dick” Lynn brought the Missouri River Queen to Kansas City in 1985, offering a variety of cruises from his landing pier at One Grand Boulevard.

The Missouri River Queen was custom built to resemble a paddlewheeler of yore, but diesel fuel powered the two 300 horsepower engines. Its two smokestacks were 45 feet high and the vessel featured three decks, with the top deck open for those who wanted to sit rail side. Lynn, as the featured captain, used the latest navigational equipment while plying the waters during cruises that lasted one to two hours.

The 125-foot long boat was manufactured by Marine Builders Inc. of Louisville, Ky., and cost $1 million. A 12-member crew was augmented by waiters, servers, cooks and entertainers to serve the needs of the 600-passenger boat. In addition to dinner and Sunday brunch cruises, the boat featured a concession stand and cash bar where souvenir glassware (as shown) was available.

The “Queen” replaced Lynn’s first boat, the 200-passenger “Westport” that began offering cruises in 1970. Fed up with Kansas City’s lack of development along its riverfront, Lynn moved the Queen to a new pier in Kansas City, Kan., to develop River City USA at Kaw Point in 1989.

He added a new modern boat, the 150-foot, 800-passenger “America River Cruiser” to his fleet, along with the “William S. Mitchell,” an historic river dredge that was opened to the public as a museum. While still named the Missouri River Queen, due to liquor laws, the boats could only ply the waters of the Kaw River.

Lynn was also well known as the owner and occupant of the Tiffany Castle at 100 Garfield in Historic Northeast, from 1986 to 1990.

In addition to regularly scheduled cruises that ran from March through December, both boats were available for special occasions such as weddings and corporate events. A one hour cruise on the Queen was priced at $5.75 for adults at 2 p.m. daily, while a dinner cruise that included a prime rib buffet and live entertainment started at $22.50 for adults, with discounts for seniors and children. A moonlight 9 p.m. cruise was offered on Friday and Saturdays for $10.

Wishing to retire, Lynn sold the Queen in 1997 and she was renamed the “Georgia Queen,” plying the waters of the Savannah River until 2016. Lynn passed at age 88 in 2014.