Friday, May 1, 2009

An old Queen gets yet another facelift

On April 23, we had some pretty good wind cracking across the lake, a steady blow of over 25mph and gusts to 35+. At around 3:15p.m., I received a call from a lake "pusher" boat, who said he was pushing a 60ft long, 30+ ft wide, two story barge, had lost one engine and was pushed ashore @ the 29 mile marker and needed assistance to get to the 33 m/m. Captain Dwayne Johnson was dispatched from the Osage Beach port for the 10 mile run to scene. He arrived on scene to find the pusher and barge wind driven against a wave break and was surprised when he realized the "barge" was in fact "The Seasons Queen", an old Excursion Boat that had operated out of the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark in the late 60's, early 70's, was replaced and had not been seen much since. He learned from the pusher skipper that he had purchased the "barge" and was taking it to the 33 m/m to convert it in to a "houseboat". Capt Johnson also learned the "Queen", had also been a "Ferry" called the Gov McCLurg, back in the early days of the "Lake's" history. Captain Johnson hooked up to the "Queen" and towed her along with the pusher boat on one engine to a safe mooring at Standing Rock Campground.
The job completed, curiosity regarding the history of the "Queen" took over and I wondered what sort of "Dinosaur' Capt Dwayne really had on the end of his towline? My first thought was to contact Mike Gillespie, who has the Lake Area History pages on line and has several articles regarding some of the older vessels on the lake - he had heard of the Seasons Queen, but couldn't pin it down - and referred me to Dwight Weaver, author of:
Lake of the Ozarks: The Early Years, Lake of the Ozarks: Vintage Vacation Paradise, History & Geography of Lake of the Ozarks, Vol. 1 and History & Geography of Lake of the Ozarks, Vol. 2
Dwight provided me with some great pictures and several pages of one of his books listed above (History and Geography of Lake of the Ozarks Vol. 1) Here is a portion of what he shared;
The construction and filling of the lake resulted in the loss of several bridges that crossed the Osage River, in particular the primary route Highway 5. The MO Highway Dept chose not to build bridges immediately including one on Hwy 5 that would connect Morgan and Camden counties and rerouted Hwy 5 traffic to Hwy 54 over Bagnell Dam. On May 28, 1932 a new ferry (Gov McClurg) was launched in Warsaw. Vessel was about 60 ft long and 30 ft wide. Operating papers from the USCG indicated the vessel displaced 45 tons, could carry about 19 to 20 vehicles, had a passengers cabin in the rear and was powered by a 100 hp Fairbanks diesel engine and could cruise at about 10 mph. The Gov McClurg proceeded the 70 miles downstream to its operating location which would connect what is now Route F and Lk rd 5-89.
In 1937 the Hurricane Deck and the Hwy 5 Nianqua Bridge were opened and the ferry went out of business and moved to location near Bagnell Dam and converted in to the "Gov McClurg Showboat" excursion vessel. It was promoted as "the largest excursion boat on the Lake". It had a capacity for 150 persons with an adult fare of 50 cents for the 3 hour excursion ride.
It appears the boat may have changed hands a few more times in 1945 and again in 1968 when it was sold to the Lodge of Four Seasons and renamed "The Seasons Queen", it was given yet another re-work, upgrading and an appearance change which probably included the 2nd deck as shown in Capt Johnson's photo when it was under tow. Due to limited space I have only mentioned a small part of the colorful history of this vessel. I want to thank Mike and Dwight for all their help and providing me with the information.
PHOTOS: Top - "Seasons Queen" under tow April 23, 2009  (CAPT Johnson)
Bottom  - "Gov McClurg" Ferry  Middle - "Gov McClurg Showboat"  taken near the "Casino Pier", Bagnell Dam can be seen in background - - Courtesy of Dwight Weaver

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