Mississippi River Paddleboat Cruises

Julie Green


Beginning in northern Minnesota and winding through ten states until reaching its destination in the Gulf of Mexico, the mighty Mississippi harkens back to the time of Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer,” when its wide waters were used by paddleboats as a main form of transportation. Today, people of all ages can relive this classic period of American history and culture by taking their very own paddleboat adventure down America’s iconic river. Regardless of where a cruise along the river takes place, guests are guaranteed a memorable experience full of interesting culture and rich landscapes. Cruising down the river on a modern day paddleboat is the ultimate way of experiencing the Mississippi’s enchanting heritage.

About Modern Paddleboats

Today’s paddlewheel boats embody the grandeur of paddleboats in the 1800s while offering all of the modern amenities and conveniences that modern passengers have come to expect. These elegant, wedding cake style vessels exude elegance and spur the spirit of adventure at the same time.

While most modern day Mississippi paddleboats have the same classic style and elegance, some are larger than others and feature different amenities based upon their purpose. Some paddleboats are designed for multiple day cruises, some are dinner boats that do not have staterooms, and others are casino boats that take guests out on the river for a day of gaming. However, regardless of their purpose, nearly every modern paddleboat features balconies and outdoor deck areas for taking in the sights as well as luxury amenities with Victorian touches that pay homage to the paddleboats of a bygone era.

Mississippi Paddleboat Locations and Destinations

Due to their slow moving nature, there are no paddleboats that traverse the full length of the Mississippi from Minnesota to New Orleans or vice versa. However, there are some companies that offer multiple day cruises from one destination to another. Some popular cruise routes are New Orleans to Memphis and Memphis to St. Louis. A multiple day cruise onboard an elegant and charming paddleboat is the best way to see the heartland of the U.S. and enjoy the sights of these famous cities as it reaches its port of call.

Cruise Length

There are numerous paddleboat cruise companies that offer several different tour packages. One can select a simple one hour cruise or a longer three to twelve day cruise. The length of longer cruises largely depends on how many ports of call the paddleboats stop at. Since the entire river system travels through multiple states and is comprised of over 50 tributaries, passengers can explore a significant portion of the American Midwest throughout their voyage. Unlike fast-moving ocean cruises, paddleboats only travel at six miles per hour, allowing guests to soak up all of the river’s natural beauty. Special one-day cruises, such as Fourth of July fireworks cruises and Valentine’s Day cruises are also typically offered.

Best Time

Paddleboat cruises down the Mississippi are available year round, but the itineraries can vary widely depending on the time of year. Understandably, northern routes are usually unavailable in the winter months. The summer months can be quite warm, so anyone sensitive to the heat should avoid cruising from May through August. Paddleboats are very popular and they usually can only accommodate a limited number of people, so tickets should be purchased well in advance.


There are a myriad of activities onboard that offer something for everyone. Nature lovers can enjoy eagle watching and seeing the rest of the sights along the riverbank. People can also bring their own poles or rent them onboard to enjoy some fishing. Guides and storytellers educate people on the river’s interesting history. Food lovers can take in the regional Cajun cuisine, and everyone can relax or kick up their heels to live jazz bands as their sweet notes float through the Delta air.

Taking a paddleboat cruise down the Mississippi is the best way to experience the era and culture made famous by Mark Twain and various others. Filled with a rich history, Mississippi River paddleboat cruises offer a splendid respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life.


My name is Julie Green and I am the head writer, content contributor, and chief, cook, and bottle washer too! My goal is to provide you information about the Mississippi River.

It’s a wonderful place that I call home. I’d like to think I know a thing or two about this area!! Please stop by often and pay us a visit.


Image of a paddle steamer on the Mississippi River near New orleans at dusk

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