Dormant steamboat could resume Mississippi cruises

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) -- One of the last steamboats to roam the Mississippi River, which for years has sat dormant on French Island, could once again cruise the mighty waterway.

A nonprofit group called Save the Julia Belle Swain says it has raised enough money to buy the historic paddlewheel and display it at Riverside Park in La Crosse while it raises $1 million needed to restore it.

The steamboat regularly traveled from Winona, Minn., to Prairie du Chien in its heyday and employed 30 to 40 seasonal workers on the vessel. The chairman of the nonprofit group, John Desmond, tells the La Crosse Tribune the steamboat could be operational by next year.

The boat, built in 1971, is modeled after the steamboats of the 1830s.

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