Historic Lorena Sternwheeler Cruises the Muskingum River
Drift along the Muskingum River on the Lorena Sternwheeler, a piece of Muskingum County history. Sit back and relax as you take a break from the summer heat while listening to the sounds of the old paddlewheel and watching the world drift by.
Walk the gangway to the sternwheeler at Zane’s Landing Park in Zanesville to start your smooth adventure on the Historic Muskingum River Water Trail. Lorena has a fresh coat of shiny white paint with red trim this year so looks extra special. She can carry seventy-five passengers, as they cruise down the same river that those early settlers traveled.
Captain Bill Page and his wife Becky, the social director, will greet you as you board ship. They’ll make sure you enjoy the cruise and are treated as special guests. Captain Bill earned his captain’s license when he had a marina in Florida and two scuba diving centers.
After retirement, he and Becky returned to his hometown of Zanesville, where they were searching for a Captain for their sternwheeler. With a little coaxing, Captain Bill agreed to fill that position until they found someone else. That was fifteen years ago! He’s had 35 years of experience as Captain so you’re in good hands on the Lorena.
The original Lorena was launched on the Muskingum River in 1895 The sternwheeler was named for a love song, “Lorena”, written during the Civil War era by a Zanesville minister. It carried freight and passengers from Zanesville to Pittsburgh and back. Her docking place was at the foot of the canal on the north bank of the Muskingum River just below the Sixth Street Bridge.
The round trip to Pittsburgh and back took about a week. They usually docked at Pittsburgh for two days to let passengers conduct any business they had on shore. There were even staterooms on board if they chose to stay there, rather than at lodging in town.
No one seems to be certain what happened to the original Lorena. But those original boats were coal-driven and the boilers on many of them could not handle the switch to diesel.
In 1972, Zanesville decided to search for a paddle wheeler to bring to the Zane’s Trace Commemoration on June 17-19. Their search led them to the Bryce M. located in Arkansas, where it had been used as a tugboat on the Arkansas River. It was renovated to look as close as possible like those boats that traveled the Muskingum in the early 1900s.
This seemed to be a good promotion for the beautiful Muskingum River, Ohio’s largest inland waterway. Plus it would give area residents and visiting tourists a chance to take a leisurely hour ride on the river at a reasonable charge on the $100,000 sternwheeler.
In order to arrive in Zanesville, the Lorena had to remove its wheelhouse to pass under the low bridge at McConnelsville, and some other low cables along the way. Though a little late, the Lorena did arrive on Saturday, when it began giving rides on the Muskingum River.
It received worldwide coverage during the Blizzard of ’78 when it was within a quarter-inch of capsizing. This was one of the worst winter storms to hit Ohio in the 20th Century. With 13 inches of snow and winds over 50 mph, temperatures reached sub-zero wind chill. No wonder the Lorena had problems.
Cruises last about an hour and travel a three-mile stretch of the Muskingum River. Captain Bill reports that he has seen many varieties of fish and birds, some that he only thought would be in Florida. His sense of humor was evident when he smiled and said, “I haven’t seen an alligator, but I’m still looking.”
There are many events throughout August that you and your family are certain to enjoy. Coupons are being given for various other area attractions when you ride the Lorena. For example: “Libraries Rock” gives you a coupon for a free book at the Muskingum County Library. On “Steer the Boat Day”, you can become Captain and steer the boat for a short time. “A Tasty Cruise” provides a bag of Conn’s potato chips to each guest.
It’s also available for lunch and dinner cruises, birthday and anniversary parties, or just to take your group for a ride down the river. Meals are provided by Classic Fare Catering, who always provide tasty dishes.
Parking is free and close to the sternwheeler entrance. Check out their schedule and see when you might be able to enjoy a relaxing ride down the Muskingum River.
The Lorena is docked in Zane’s Landing Park in Zanesville. Exit I-70 and head east a block and turn right onto Market Street. Take Market Street nearly to the end and look for the park entrance on the right-hand side. You’ll be ready to enjoy a ride on the Muskingum River.