On September 2, 1987, a new excursion boat made its maiden voyage on Buffalo Bayou, loaded with city and county officials and other dignitaries and news media. The Island Queen was built in La Crosse, Wisconsin to custom specifications to navigate the windy course and shallow drafts of the Bayou (and to fit under the bridges). She was 70 feet long and could accomodate up to 70 people. It was used for tours and weddings. It had a paddle wheel and two smokestacks that were just for show (it was diesel powered), and had three crew members: a captain, first mate, and a bartender.
The boat was owned privately but was part of the city’s master plan in the 1980s to revive the waterfront areas of the city. The Island Queen ran its tour from Allen Landing all the way to Brady Island, which is just east of the Port’s “Turning Basin.”
Only about a month after the maiden voyage of the Island Queen, Houston held it’s first Waterfront Festival, which was less a festival than a clean-up event, to paint the bridges and take away trash. The event was co-sponsored by UHD, who also held a photography showcase of Buffalo Bayou and helped bring bands in for the evening. The Island Queen continued to run tours for several years after this event, although we’re not sure when she was officially taken off the bayou.