Low water forces American Cruise Lines to move to LeTourneau

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, October 20, 2022

Buses for American Cruise Lines were seen moving south along U.S. 61 South Thursday as low water in the Yazoo River Diversion Canal forced the company’s cruise boat landing to the public boat dock at LeTourneau.

Laura Beth Strickland, Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, said one of the cruise line’s boats arrived Wednesday.

Workers for Maynord Landscaping in Vicksburg were at the landing Thursday morning.

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Mary Maynord with Maynord Landscaping said the company has a contract with American Cruise Lines to prepare its landing at the riverfront. She said the crews at LeTourneau were making a road for the buses and developing a spot for the boat’s stage, or ramp, so it could land.

American Cruise Lines spokesperson Alexa Paolella said the boats will be using LeTourneau during the low water period.

“We’re still operating; most of the boats are fine,” she said, but added that low water problems between Memphis and Vicksburg have forced American to amend some of its cruises from Memphis to New Orleans.

Paolella said passengers for the Memphis to New Orleans cruise will arrive in Memphis and have their excursions and pre-cruise activities in Memphis, then be taken by bus to Vicksburg, where they will embark for New Orleans “and then continue on their cruise nearly as scheduled.

“It creates a little more time in Vicksburg and I think they get a little extra time in Natchez as a result of the schedule,” she said. “The guests will still visit Memphis and be able to do their shore excursions and pre-cruise planned activities there as well. The amended itinerary also nicely allows for a little bit longer in Vicksburg as well. They’re going to start in Memphis; (but) instead of cruising from Memphis, they will be taken on a cruise coach to Vicksburg.”

The river’s low water level has caused problems not only with the cruise lines but with shipping companies and river ports as a lack of rain and dry conditions brought on by the third La Niña in as many years has dropped the river to extreme levels. The last time the earth was affected by three La Niñas was in 2000.

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Partnership, said the Port of Vicksburg has already seen a steep decline in tonnage shipped through the port.
“It’s definitely lower, and by a long way,” Diaz said. “It’s a cascade effect. Everybody that is having issues north of here who might be sending products through Vicksburg, that (traffic) has slowed down a lot.”

Marty Pope, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, said the river level continues to drop and may reach the 2012 level of minus 1.7 feet, “and may go below that. As of 4:10 p.m. Thursday, the river was at 0.9 feet and is forecast to rise to 1.2 feet by next Tuesday.

“I understand the channel is in good shape; the Corps keeps that center part pretty well dredged. They have to keep that (open),” Pope said. “My understanding is the problems have been when they’re having to go to port or docking locations. It’s those parts of the river where some of them have issues.

“In your ports, your water level’s so low that, at a lot of the ports you can’t get in so they’re having to find places that have deeper water areas.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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