Then and now: Original Dixie now a barge

The original M.S. Dixie was retired in the 1990s. Photos/Bill Kingman

The original M.S. Dixie paddle-wheeler was retired in the 1990s. Photos/Bill Kingman

The M.S. (Motor Ship) Dixie was brought to Lake Tahoe in sections in about 1948, having served on the Mississippi River.

The Dixie in 1972.

The Dixie in 1972.

After the Amundson family of Lake Tahoe lengthened, widened, and added a third deck, the M.S. Dixie debuted as a cruise ship in 1972. It docked variously at Ski Run on the beach, at Timber Cove Pier, and at Zephyr Cove, which became its permanent port.

The initial dinner cruises to Emerald Bay offered steaks from several backyard-type barbecues placed outside on the Dixie’s rear deck.

Twenty years later, the M.S. Dixie was replaced by a brand new M. S. Dixie II, the largest ship on Lake Tahoe. It is based at Zephyr Cove.

M.S. Dixie II

M.S. Dixie II

Jim Amundson has converted the old retired Dixie into a service barge which remains the main platform for our annual 4th of July and Labor Day fireworks shows over the lake.

The original M.S. Dixie is now the barge used for the annual South Shore fireworks.

The original M.S. Dixie is now the barge used for the annual South Shore fireworks.

Singer Ray Donoho’s website details the debut Dixie where he performed.

— Bill Kingman


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Comments (9)
  1. Robert Fleischer says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    I sure remember working on the electronics…and the hydraulic spuds controls….and some pretty good Party’s aboard the Dixie….

  2. Irish Wahini says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    Very interesting!

  3. Old long Skiis says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    I didn’t know the original Dixe was that old. Good to hear it’s still in the Amundson family.
    Back in the 70’s they had partys at night with rock and roll. Nothing like sittin’ on the top deck as we motored out into the ink black lake, looking up at a clear starry night while listening to good music and enjoying your favorite libation. That eventualy was stopped as things were getting a bit out of hand, too many kids geting too drunk and a strange odor in the air, but it was fun while it lasted.
    Thanks Bill. Old Long Skiis

  4. Diana Hamilton says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    I waitressed on the Dixie spring of ’84 ~ I’m glad that she’s still in service ‘tho a shell of her former self.

  5. Lisa J. says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    Ahhhh, the good ol’ days at Zephyr Cove. We all had great times working and playing at the resort. Capt. Jack, Capt. Biller, Chuck, Mikey, Kirk, Doug, the twins, Nancy, Chris, the Woodwind gang; Michal, Lisa, Kevin, Tina, Robin, Steve, Roland, Barbara, Dan, Mikey S., Laura, Rita, Puppers, Dave, Natalie, Judy. Sunset Champagne cruises on the Woodwind. Dancing on the Dixie. So many others were there.

  6. Know Bears says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    As kids we half-dreaded and half-thrilled about ski-ing over Dixie’s wake. At the beach, her wake was a great source of fun. (Dixie II’s are even more so.) I always promised myself I’d take a tour on Dixie I, but waited too long, alas.

    Thanks again for your stories and photos, Bill!

  7. jay says - Posted: February 16, 2014

    nice little peice of tahoe history

  8. Irish Wahini says - Posted: February 17, 2014

    It’s not too late to have fun on the M.S. Dixie — the dinner cruises are great! Good food, good service, good music & dancing… hope Lake Tahoe Cruises offers the Season Pass again this year.

  9. Mike Adams says - Posted: February 17, 2014

    I was an engineer below deck, with Capt. Biller at the helm. Trying to keep 3 Volvo engines and one Detroit diesel (generator)was a noisy fun job. Capt. Biller always amazed me how he could bring her right into the slip at Zephyr cove in a dense fog, my job then was to hook a hauser over the pole as she passed it bringing it to a halt. the above deck hands did the rest. Quite a bit of teamwork! Thank You Captain Biller!!