It was on this day: June 20, 1841 – The Steamboat Ripple arrives at Iowa City (Thanks to Our Iowa Heritage)

From April 21, 1823, when The Virginia became the first steamboat to navigate the upper Mississippi, until 1860 when railroads dominated, riverboats were the primary mode of long-distance travel in the Western United States. 

Steam came before the locomotive

Before the arrival of the railroad in Iowa City in 1856, there was hope that the Iowa River could serve as a viable route for steamboat transportation, essential for importing and exporting goods. This optimism was enshrined in the city's regulations governing bridge construction from 1854, stipulating that no structure should obstruct navigation. 

The excitement peaked in Johnson County when the Ripple, commanded by Captain Dan Jones, made its inaugural journey to Iowa City in the early summer of 1841. Celebrations ensued, with author John B. Newhall of Burlington addressing the crowd, fueling hopes with his book, "The Sketches of Iowa" (1841). 

Unpredictability halts what was a good start

Despite the initial enthusiasm, the Iowa River's unpredictable water levels in Johnson County posed significant challenges for larger steamboats, making regular schedules untenable. Captain Thayer and his steamboat, the Rock River, briefly revived hopes in April 1842, demonstrating the river's navigability. 

Subsequent steamboats like the Agatha in 1844 and the Maid of Iowa in 1844 and 1845 attempted visits to Iowa City but faced operational difficulties and legal issues, leading to their eventual departure and failure to return. 

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Various attempts, including Charles A. Robbins' steamboat venture in 1845, aimed to establish Iowa City as a river port, but they struggled with the irregularity of river traffic and economic viability. 

The Iowa City steamboat launched in 1866, represented another effort to connect Iowa City with the Mississippi River. Despite some successful trips, it eventually met its end, either succumbing to fire or being sold and renamed the Minnie by 1882. 

Ultimately, the dream of a thriving port in Iowa City, sustained by riverboat traffic, never fully materialized due to the Iowa River's challenging conditions and the ascendancy of railroad transportation. 

The Highest-Rated Restaurants in Iowa City on Yelp (June 2024)

The next time you're looking for a good meal in Johnson County, you may want to check out one of these awesome restaurants! Here are 15 of the top-rated restaurants in the Iowa City/Coralville area according to Yelp in June of 2024:

Gallery Credit: Courtlin

10 of the Best Airbnbs to Stay At in Iowa City

Looking for a nice place to stay in Iowa City? Here you go! All 10 Airbnbs on this list are "superhosts," they all have at least 30 reviews, and they all have a 4.97-star rating or higher. Based on that information, here are 10 of the best properties you can stay at in the Iowa City area:

Gallery Credit: Courtlin

 

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