Destination Illinois: Spirit of Peoria

Destination Illinois - Central

PEORIA, Ill. — While the boat might look old, the Spirit of Peoria was actually built in 1988 down in Paducah, Kentucky.

The boat is three decks high and dressed up in the “wedding cake” style of days past. It is 160 feet long, and powered by two Caterpillar diesel engines. It holds 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel, and the most surprising thing is, its draft is only four and a half feet.

Despite the modern conveniences, this boat is able to take its passengers away to an earlier time.

“We tell our passengers to take off their wristwatches and turn off their phones because they’re on river time when they step on the Spirit of Peoria,” Capt. Alex Grieves said.

The Spirit of Peoria takes to the river two to three times a day for short excursions, but there are also a number of longer trips north, up to Starved Rock State Park, or down to St. Louis and up the Mississippi to Hannibal, Missouri.

There’s also a large number of “theme cruises,” with jazz, Dixieland or gospel music, children’s activities, food cruises, zombie cruises and murder mystery cruises. Captain Grieves says the murder mystery cruises always end up being sold out.

You can even rent the boat—or a deck—for a private event. Check the Spirit of Peoria website for a list of events and prices.

The Spirit of Peoria continues to provide people with a sense of what life might have been like over 100 years ago. It’s a diesel-powered time machine, moving at seven miles an hour.

“Being built for Peoria, it has two Caterpillar 3412 diesel engines that create all our AC power,” Grieves said. “That AC power is then rectified and sent to two train motors, so it’s actually DC-powered train motors that drive our paddle wheel.’

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