A self-proclaimed “river rat,” Captain Joe Jamison has been working on the nation’s waterways since he was 18 years old.
“I don’t have the river in my blood. It is my blood,” Captain Joe said with a laugh.
Now he has one of the best jobs in the world – captain of the beautiful American Queen. “It is very exciting to have her on the river again,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of people tells me how important this boat is to so many people.”
A third-generation river man, Captain Joe began his career in St. Louis with the Agri-Trans Corporation. Since then, he has held a variety of positions including general manager of Keller’s Peoria Harbor & Fleeting and master of the M/V Emerald Lady.
In the mid 1990s, he supervised the construction of vessels for Par-A-Dice Riverboat Casino in Peoria, Illinois; Casino Rouge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Blue Chip Casino based in Michigan City, Indiana.
Beginning in the fall of 2000, Captain Joe held command of the vessel Miss Belterra. In 2007, he joined Majestic American Line as a trip pilot on the Delta Queen and American Queen.
“It’s like coming home to be back on the American Queen,” he said. “This is something America needs, to see America the way many of the early settlers did – from the river.”
What he likes most about being riverboat captain is getting to meet so many interesting people, Captain Joe said. What he finds most challenging is dealing with the constantly changing river.
“On this cruise, the river has been very low. You are getting to see sandbars and things you don’t normally see.”
Born in Beardstown, Illinois, Captain Joe now lives in Corydon, Indiana, with his wife when he isn’t working.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch