Valley Gem Sightseeing Tour

There’s no better way to enjoy a Saturday in Marietta than to kick back and float by the world on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. I took their ninety minute sightseeing tour last weekend and had a terrific experience.

The tour begins on the Muskingum River in Marietta and heads up the Ohio River before turning and heading back down.

The narration doesn’t last the entire time. Instead, the Captain talks for the first 15 or 20 minutes, providing some tidbits about local history and landmarks along the way.

This house has been owned by the same family for twelve generations.

We learned about how NASA once built equipment in Steubenville and moved it downriver by barge. We even got a great view of this old railroad bridge I told you about once.

We saw lots of kayaks, barges and speedboats and even spotted a Bald Eagle.

We also got a good look at Buckley Island which was once home to a prolific potato farm. Prior to that it was an amusement park built by the Buckeye and Eureka Pipeline Company. It’s now gone back to nature and it’s hard to imagine that it could accommodate the masses of people who were once drawn here.

It’s now part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. We saw kayakers hanging out there.

It’s a peaceful and picturesque ride. It’s a little like going back in time to a slower pace of life when paddle boats ruled the river.

Captain Jason told us about how he and his family built this boat in 1989. He is one of the youngest people to earn his pilots license when he was just 18 years old. It’s very much a family business and I felt like they took good care to keep everyone happy and safe.

For ten bucks you can add a box lunch to your ticket. It was quite good but you can also buy light refreshments at their concessions stand.

They do a number of tours including some longer history tours and celebratory dinner cruises for holidays. You can even book it for weddings and parties.

Want to book a tour or learn more? Click here to visit their website.

Broken Bridge To The Past

Last year I took a walk across the pedestrian bridge that connects Marietta with Old Town. It’s an old railroad bridge that crosses the Muskingum River and it is scary.

While the terrifying aspects of the trip were no fun, this bridge offers great views of the city and the river so I recently went back, planning to brave it once more.

And it was closed.

That’s right. My belief that it was a death trap was accurate. The bridge is now closed. The owners are so adamant about the closure, they actually disconnected a section and turned it around.

The bridge has an interesting history. The piers were built in 1857, according to the local paper. It replaced a covered bridge that once spanned the river. The iron work is old as well. It was last replaced after a big flood in 1913some 107 years ago.

The paper also said that it is one of the oldest swinging railroad bridges in the country and it is the only one of its kind that still turns.

Officials estimate restoration costs to be between two and four million dollars. I cannot imagine where that amount of money could be found for a pedestrian bridge but we can hold onto hope, I suppose.

When I saw that a section had been turned, I was overwhelmed with emotion- first shock because I had no idea that an entire section of bridge could just be turned like that. Then I couldn’t decide if I should be happy because I couldn’t take that long and scary walk, sad for the people who rely on it for utilitarian purposes every day or devastated that a piece of our history is at risk.

And part of me was irritated that I couldn’t face a fear that day.

It was quite the roller coaster of emotions as I stood on the shore, gaping at this spectacular piece of our heritage – literally a bridge to our past broken and possibly soon lost altogether.

And that just made me sad.