Weather Forecast


Queen II turning 20

ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa -- Twenty years after the Queen II set sail on the Iowa Great Lakes in Arnolds Park, she will be celebrated with a christening and commemorative cruise on Sunday. The event is hoped to help raise funds for some much-needed work on the sight-seeing boat.

Tickets for the 5 p.m. celebration cruise may be purchased on the Queen prior to departure. Included in the $100-per-ticket price are hors d'oeuvres, champagne, wine and soft drinks. The celebration will include a presentation of the boat's history, a description of the work the boat's owners -- Historic Arnolds Park Inc. (HAPI) -- hope to complete, and a special ticket commemorating Queen II's first excursion on the Iowa Great Lakes. Drawings will also be conducted for memorabilia relating to the boat. Up to 200 tickets will be issued for the celebration cruise.

Dennis Ward, of HAPI, said proceeds from Sunday's cruise will be matched with grants to help pay for the Queen II's revitalization.

"As I say, the old girl needs a new dress," said Ward of the work, which is estimated to cost between $120,000 and $150,000.

The Queen II was built by Palmer Johnson Shipyards of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and purchased for $400,000 in 1986. The double-decker boat is 75 feet long, 18 feet wide and weighs 75 tons. It was purchased following the retirement of the Iowa Great Lake's original Queen.

"The original Queen on the lake sailed from 1884 to 1973," said Ward, adding that during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Queen joined about 12 steam boats on the Great Lakes.

The boats were used to transport people to and from homes and cabins on the lake, and also served as delivery vehicles for lumber and goods needed by those who lived along the lake shore.

"Most of the vacationers or home owners on the lake came by train," Ward said. "The roads were virtually non-existing. You couldn't hardly travel the ones that were there."

After 89 years of service, however, the original Queen was showing its wear. After the boat's retirement and move to a final resting spot at Adventureland in Des Moines, Ward said public outcry over the loss of a popular tourist attraction led to the commission of Queen II.

"Now, it's been 20 years (since Queen II arrived) and the weather conditions up here are not kind to a boat," said Ward.

Much of the work performed on the boat during the past two decades has been geared to maintenance.

"As far as cosmetic improvements, there have been none," Ward said.

Among the work planned for Queen II is exterior painting -- both above and below surface -- and interior painting, construction of a new life jacket storage area, addition of a teakwood helm in the pilot house, a dura deck on the upper deck, a wood railing on the lower level and aluminum railings, and the installation of new propellers, transmission and a hoist/lift system.

"By the time we're done, we will have spent about as much money on the boat as it cost new," Ward added.

Work will begin after the 2006 cruise season, which extends through mid-September.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 passengers cruise the lake on Queen II each season, said Ward, adding that cruises are offered daily at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m, with each cruise lasting one hour and 15 minutes. The cruise season begins in mid-May.

During the cruise, passengers learn trivia about the lake, from its formation by the Wisconsin Glacier to its deepest point of 150 feet, as well as the fact that it is completely spring-fed -- there are no tributaries that flow into Big Spirit or Little Spirit lakes. Ward said guides also point out specific homes along the lake's shores that are well-known for their size or extravagance.

In addition to its daily cruises, the Queen II is available for charter services, and is often booked for wedding receptions, anniversary and birthday parties or other special occasions.

For ticket and charter information, people may call the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum at (712) 332-2183. Those who would like to contribute to the boat's restoration are welcome to sponsor a specific project or contribute toward the work.

HAPI, which owns the Queen II, also operates the Arnolds Park amusement park, Queen's Court shopping center, 10 acres of green space for outdoor recreation near the shoreline and the maritime museum.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330