Natchez needs a port for smaller boats

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Years ago Natchez had a port for small boats. It was a barge boat operated by Steve Stevens that sat alongside the Mississippi riverbank down under the hill. In those days three or four boats would come down the River and stop at Natchez each day. They would refuel, visit some of the old homes, buy groceries and stuff needed on their boats, and eat at our restaurants. By fueling here they could travel all the way to New Orleans where they could find fuel again. Baton Rouge had no port or marina then and still doesn’t.

Andrew Peabody

Then two things happened. First the Tombigbee River was opened all the way to Mobile. And secondly Steve Stephens died. As a result, the small boaters had to choose the Tombigbee route, since Steve’s barge boat-refueling option no longer existed. Columbus, Mississippi took advantage of this situation by creating a large marina on their Tombigbee river frontage. Then with all the boats landing at Columbus a Pilgrimage of old homes was started and stores and restaurants merrily thrived.

The vast majority of these boaters had saved for years to buy their dreamboats and after retiring from work, they launched their dream cruise to the Gulf Coast and beyond. All of these cities, Hannibal, St. Louis, Memphis, Helena, Tunica, Greenville, Vicksburg and more! All of these cities and towns would benefit. Columbus would still get some of this traffic but the majority of the boaters would choose the scenic Mississippi route.

Email newsletter signup

Mayor Darryl Grennell understood this problem and sought to solve it by seeking Government grants and employing an engineering firm from Gulfport to provide the essentials for the opening of a port. The cost would have been over $1 million but the cost to Natchez would have been far less. Unfortunately he retired after only one term and the new Mayor Dan Gibson would do nothing to restart the project. I had asked for a meeting and he said he would schedule it in January 2023, but he never scheduled it and now he will not even return phone calls about this project that could benefit citizens not only in Natchez but also citizens all up and down the River. What a crying shame!

Andrew Peabody is a Natchez resident.