Imagine driving to Lake Nasworthy on a beautiful summer day, visiting the beach, watching the sports boats and water-skiers, and maybe even visiting the Nature Center.
As you leave the Nature Center, you spot something that seems out of place in the 21st Century, a steamboat.
Should Mack Fox get his way, the Concho River Queen steamboat will soon be docked near the Nature Center and available excursions and charter.
“Having grown up on Lake Nasworthy, I always enjoyed driving around and seeing how beautiful the lake is,” Fox described. “Lake Nasworthy with this beautiful boat is just perfect.”
Fox, a steamboat aficionad,o has been tracking the status of a little side wheel paddle-steamer for years, and now wants to lease a small tract of land on Lake Nasworthy to give wildlife excursions and/or private charter.
The steamboat, originally known as the “Tule Princess” is currently berthed in Bay City, MI. According to Fox, the boat was built in 1983 and is 38 feet long and 14 feet wide, with a 22 horsepower single-cylinder engine. Steam-powered, the engine would run on burner oil, recycled from used motor oil.
“It is a uniquely American style marine engine,” Fox explained. “This is the only working walking beam engine in the world.”
Fox intends to renovate the boat to accommodate sight-seeing and small parties while maintaining the historical integrity of the vessel.
The vessel would be operated by three crew and could hold around 20 passengers on the fore and aft decks.
Fox believes that the Concho River Queen would have a fine niche to fill, one that would draw in fans of steamboats from all over the country.
“If we get this vessel on Lake Nasworthy and God sends us enough rain, steamboat fans from around the world will come here,” Fox stated.
With many steamboat aficionados in the country, it is likely that many of them would travel to San Angelo to ride the last operating walking beam engine in the world.
“We are very much in support,” said Pamela Miller, Vice President of the Convention and Visitor's Center, at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Jan. 23. “It will be a great tourism jewel for the city.”
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board agreed with Miller and Fox, and approved Fox’s request for a spot of land to be leased by the City, preferably at Mary Lee Park near the Nature Center.
The matter will go before City Council on Feb. 18, though Council Member Rodney Fleming, who was present at the Parks and Recreation meeting, feels that it won’t be an issue.
“If we offer a lease to one company, then we should offer to another one,” he said.
The Nature Center is also in full support, believing that a wildlife excursion boat is perfect for seeing the San Angelo wildlife at Lake Nasworthy that can’t be accessed from the Nature Center.
“For example, you can’t see the ducks, they do not come over here,” said Andrew Garcia, Coordinator of the San Angelo Nature Center. “It (a wildlife excursion) would be beneficial for the both of us.”
Fox explains that the Steamboat is clean, produces no smoke and is perfectly suited for shallow waters like Lake Nasworthy, while also offering a great educational opportunity. He especially wants to teach about the importance of water conservation and feels that his steamboat tours are the perfect platform to do so.
Once Fox has everything in place, including permission to lease waterfront land from the City, he plans on purchasing the steamboat and getting his operation underway.