Spirit of Sacramento – Sacramento, California - Atlas Obscura

Spirit of Sacramento

Before it was abandoned and left to rust alongside the road, this riverboat starred in a John Wayne movie. 


This three-story boat has lived many impressive lives, each under a different name. From starting off as a snagboat in 1942 to being owned by John Wayne, this abandoned riverboat has a fascinating story.

The boat was first built in 1942 as an Army Corps of Engineer snagboat and operated until around 1954 under the name Putah. It was then bought by John Wayne. The actor and filmmaker used this sternwheeler in his 1955 film Blood Alley, which starred himself and Lauren Bacall.

Wayne later sold the boat, and it was rechristened the Mansion Belle and used to give river tours. It found new ownership again in the early 1990s and was once again renamed. Now called the Spirit of Sacramento, it whisked people up and down the river on charming dinner cruises. That is, until a nasty fire set the boat ablaze and nearly reduced it to ruins.

Even though the Spirit of Sacramento was sold yet again after the fire and repaired, the boat never returned to glory. Thanks to a series of mishaps and vandalism, it remained half submerged beneath the water until locals grew concerned it would one day break free and float down the river, destroying anything in its path. The once-grand vessel was pulled to the surface and plopped alongside the road. It still sits there today, abandoned and unlikely to ever feel the waves beneath it ever again.

Know Before You Go

When heading down Riego Road toward the Sacramento River, turn left after the road ends and head down the Garden Highway. After driving down that for less than a minute, you'll spot the Mansion Belle sitting just off the side of the road. Note: This boat is on private property, so it's best to view it from the road.

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