The Brazos Valley Bucket List - The Southern Empress

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

On the shores of Lake Conroe, you’ll find a mighty Mississippi queen that can churn up a feeling from the past.

It's from a time when things didn't go so fast and traveling on the water was a luxury.

It’s an experience that will give rise to your southern charm thanks to the Southern Empress.

Several times a week, Conroe native Ricky Martin welcomes visitors aboard this vessel he captains.

Folks from all over the state board the Southern Empress for a unique opportunity to see Lake Conroe from a different point of view and to have a good time while doing it.

“I get to see people have a good time, I get to tell people what I do, my kids love what I do. Growing up and seeing captains on the TV all the time, getting to be the real captain for them is awesome," said Martin.

Ricky used to drive aircraft carriers in the Navy but now he’s behind the wheel of a much more relaxing schooner, one that’s not out for days, weeks, or months at time.

"It’s a good way to experience Lake Conroe and experience the Sam Houston National Forest along with seeing the dam. You get an enjoyable ride, dinner, and you get home at the end of the night," said Martin.

As the three hour tour takes off on Lake Conroe, the ships giant red paddles dip into the water and push the three story tall ship to sea.

“Being an authentic paddle boat the only means of propulsion are the paddles. That’s all that pushes us is the paddles. There is no prop below the water back there, there are no bow thrusters on her, so in the wind she can be quite a sail boat with a four and half foot draft below the water and three and half stories of sail. It’s a little tricky," said Martin.

This replica steamboat was built in Mississippi back in 1983 and is powered by two diesel motors. It took 27 semi-loads to get her to Texas where she was welded together and put into Lake Conroe.

Thirty years later, she’s still putting smiles on people's faces-or maybe it’s the 10,950 sunsets she has been a part of.

“You get that music right around sunset and people really start enjoying the sun going down and the moon going up. It’s really nice," said Martin.

And that’s the reason most folks come, to enjoy an incredible Texas sunset in a unique way on a floating piece of history.

“You know there are some things about our culture that you just can’t miss. This steam boat is one of those things that is unique to Texas and you need to participate in it. Come on down and enjoy it, take a break, put your feet up, and enjoy the scenery," said visitor Brooke Lozano.

KBTX-TV Channel 3 4141 E. 29th Street Bryan, TX 77802 Phone: (979) 846-7777 Fax: (979) 846-1490 News Fax: (979) 846-1888
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