The last stop on our tours from our trip in February was a guided tour of the Mark Twain Riverboat sitting still on the Rivers of America in Disneyland. For a little more than a year, the Mark Twain has been sitting dockside in Frontier Land while the Rivers of America was undergoing a reroute to make room for the new Star Wars Land.
It is one of the few remaining attractions that was a part of the opening day in 1955, and has fascinating past. The paddle-wheeled steam boat is a 5/8 scale replica of actual steamers on the Mississippi river. The hull was built at the shipyards in San Pedro and the decks were built at WED (Walt Elias Disney) Enterprises in Burbank. The 105 foot boat was assembled at Disneyland and was operational on opening day. When corporate funds fell short, Walt funded the completion from his own pocket.
While the boat is in “drydock,” guests can take a guided tour of the three decks, including the wheelhouse, where the captain pilots the boat around the river. All you have to do is ask nicely and an available Cast Member will happily guide you around the boat and its history in Disneyland.
The boat is an actual steam powered vehicle that is fueled by biodiesel from the kitchens around Disneyland, like the locomotives on the Disneyland Rail Road.
The pilot of the boat doesn’t actually steer it along the river, as it rides on an I-beam under the water, but the captain does communicate with the boiler engineer to power the ship along its track.
In its early days, there was live music aboard and the Mark Twain has seen its share of celebrities. Louis Armstrong is rumored to be among its guest performers during it 61 year history. Live music is currently available while the ship is idled. There is the remnant of a bar on board where those early guests could also purchase a non-alcoholic mint julep.
The tour includes a trip all the way to the top, into the Wheelhouse where the captain guides the Mark Twain on its journey on the river. The boiler is fired up daily to keep the system operational, so there is steam available to blow the steam whistle. Don’t hesitate to do it when you get the chance! There is also a guest book, so don’t forget to sign it while you are there!
These tours will all soon come to an end as the Rivers of America are reopened and the Mark Twain and Columbia will once again resume their daily journeys, taking guests back to a simpler time, if only for a few minutes. In fact, there are posts already up that the Rivers of America are being refilled, so get to Disneyland and tour the Mark Twain while there is still time!
If you ever get the chance to visit other parks, there are paddle-wheelers in the Magic Kingdom (Liberty Belle), Disneyland Paris (Mark Twain and Molly Brown), and Tokyo (Mark Twain), which is so large it actually has to be registered as a ship!