It is hard to believe that another beautiful season of steamboating has already passed into history. 2019 was the restored Minnehaha’s twenty-fourth year on Lake Minnetonka. Despite less-than-ideal weather on many weekends, ridership was good with about 8,000 passengers sailing aboard Minnehaha from late May to early October. This was only possible because of the persistent support received from the community and the dedication of our 70+ volunteers. The following is a recap of just some of the highlights from the past year.
Per usual, the first part of the year focused on Minnehaha’s winter maintenance. Every Saturday, a group of about ten volunteers met at “the barn” to work on various projects. Work this year included repairing the genset cooling system, replacing drains, repairing seats, and regular painting and wood repair. Thanks to the dedication of our winter maintenance crew, Minnehaha was ready to be launched by mid-May.
One of the most common questions that Minnehaha’s passengers like to ask is if there are plans to raise any of the other streetcar boats from the bottom of Lake Minnetonka. The simple answer is “no.” There are many reasons for this; aside from the logistical and economic obstacles that would have to be overcome, it is also illegal. According to the nonprofit Maritime Heritage Minnesota, shipwrecks at the bottom of any lake in Minnesota are subject to several laws at both the state and federal levels, including the Minnesota Field Archaeology Act (1963), the Minnesota Historic Sites Act (1965), and the Federal Abandoned Shipwrecks Act (1987), among others. These laws prevent shipwrecks from being looted or otherwise disturbed, let alone raised. They were enacted, in part, because submerged resources risk being damaged or destroyed if they are raised without proper care.
Many would be surprised to learn that Minnehaha was indeed raised illegally in 1980. So, how was it allowed to happen? The situation was rather complicated.
Have you ever heard the story about the Excelsior Amusement Park roller coaster being moved to Valleyfair? Or maybe you’ve heard that John Philip Sousa and his band played at Big Island Park. Lake Minnetonka’s history is grand, but some of the tidbits that you’ve likely heard are not true. This fall the MLM started an ongoing series of posts on the Steamboat Minnehaha Facebook page called #MythbusterMonday. The series’ popularity has exceeded all expectations, having reached more than 34,000 people thus far. In case you missed it, here are 10 myths about Lake Minnetonka history that we “busted” in 2019.
Myth #1:Minnehaha and her sister
streetcar boats regularly serviced Big Island Park between 1906 and 1911.
The truth:Minnehaha and the
streetcar boats rarely stopped at Big Island Park. In reality, the park
was primarily serviced by three side-wheeled ferries named Minneapolis
(pictured), Saint Paul, and Minnetonka. Each were originally 108
feet long (later extended to 139 feet) and could carry up to 1,000 passengers.
They were also double-ended so they didn’t have to turn around after each
crossing between Excelsior and the park.
Bonus truth: The three Big Island
ferries only sailed between Excelsior and Big Island Park. While the Saint
Paul and Minnetonka were scrapped sometime after Big Island Park
closed in 1911, the Minneapolis was purposely burned to the waterline
and sunk in 1912.
Earlier this year, the MLM received notice that Minnehaha will no longer be granted access to the privately-owned launch site at 600 West Lake Street, Shorewood after December 31, 2019. The launch site is only used twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, for the sole purpose of launching and hauling Minnehaha in and out of the water. Since this is a critical component of Minnehaha’s operation, a new launch site is needed.
Minnehaha is typically launched in the water in May and hauled out in October. While in the water, she is stored at a leased dock slip on Excelsior Bay (687 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior). The MLM is guaranteed to keep this slip through 2023.
During the winter months, Minnehaha needs to be stored indoors so that she can be properly preserved and rehabilitated. Minnehaha is currently stored in a large pole barn structure at 140 George Street, Excelsior. This structure is owned by the MLM but sits on land owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority.