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Mississippi River steamboat prepares for return

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A non-profit group is set to once again fire up the century-old engines of the steamboat, Julia Belle Swain.

The La Crosse Tribune reportsSave the Julia Belle Swain has raised enough money to buy the sternwheeler that has sat dormant near the city for the past five years. The group must now raise as much as $1 million to restore the vessel and resume cruises along the river that mostly likely includes a stop in Winona.

The city approved a request to return the Julia Belle on display in La Crosse's Riverside Park this fall while the work is being done.

The boat was built in 1971 utilizing engines from near the turn of the last century. It operated on the river for years before it was shuttered during the downturn in the economy. The Julia Belle Swain was one of the dwindling handful of steamships left on the river. It was smaller and swifter than some other counterparts, such as the Delta Queen. One steamboat enthusiast managed to get a video of it in action before it was mothballed.

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