In the early 1900s, the steamboat Minnehaha was an integral part of the Twin Cities’ commuter transit system. It was one of several boats built to act as feeders for the newly developed street car system at Lake Minnetonka.
The lake area was quickly developing, but all the capes and bays around the lake made it impracticable to run a streetcar system close to the water. So boats were built to extend the line, transporting lakeside residents to and from the streetcar link to Minneapolis.
These Express Boats, as they were called, were painted in the same livery as the street cars they served, and became known as “streetcar boats.”
The boat service boomed for a time, but with the 1920s came the automobiles, and the transit business started to struggle. In 1926 the steamboat service was discontinued. Several boats were scuttled, including the Minnehaha.
The boat was discovered again in 60 feet of water, by a diver in 1979. It was eventually recovered and by 1996, following a long period of disputed ownership, it had been restored and given a second life as a floating museum.
This magnificent and historic boat has been operated by the Museum of Lake Minnetonka since 2004. The museum runs the Minnehaha from ports in Excelsior and Wayzata during the summer and fall, and offers various different excursions. It is currently the only authentic passenger steamboat docked in Minnesota.
Update: The Minnehaha has been out of service since 2019. Operators are currently looking for a new launch site for the steamboat