For one brief moment in our nation's history it was possible to slide down a muddy bank, board a steamboat, and travel anywhere within a 16,000-mile system known as the Western Rivers. Western River steamboats were a marvel unique to their region and their time. Intellect conceived them; necessity molded them. These smoking, puffing works of carpenter Gothic usually wore themselves out or sank to the bottom within five years of their launching.

Come Hell or High Water is an anthology of nineteeth century steamboat experiences, with emphasis on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Based on original diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, and memoirs, Come Hell or High Water tells the remarkable story of steamboating through the impressions of those who lived the adventure.

Illustrated with maps and photographs, Come Hell or High Water covers the design and evolution of the river steamboat and the difficulties of navigating the big rivers. It describes the hardships and duties of working on the river as a crewman and the surprising and often humorous experiences of steamboat passengers. This detailed book also provides a chilling look at disasters on the river: the explosions, fires, collisions, and more.

Folks, if you've enjoyed my Lake Area History Pages, I know you'll like this book. James V. Swift, of The Waterways Journal wrote: "You'll find the whole history of steamboating in...Come Hell or High Water."

Come Hell or High Water: A Lively History of Steamboating on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers (Softbound, 295 pages, maps, illustrations, glossary, index, Heritage Press, ISBN 0-9620823-2-5) is available through Barnes and Noble,, or by ordering direct from the publisher at 1-888-255-7726.


Mike Gillespie


© 2002 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved. is sponsored by Casino Pier - Port of the Captain Larry Don and the Commander excursion boats