The Lakes Region was settled in the 1850's. By 1884, small towns had developed and two railroads: The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern; and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Pal laid tracks into the area. As hotels were built around the lakes, swing bridges were constructed to facilitate steamboat navigation.
The communities, hotels and individual cottage owners required a dependable means of transportation in the road-poor area. To meet this demand, the railroads built steamships that ran on schedules coinciding with the arrival and departure of the trains.
Many steamships were required. Small craft ran service from West Okoboji Lake to the Orleans Hotel located on the isthmus between Spirit Lake and East Okoboji Lake. The larger ships operated mostly on West Okoboji Lake. Individuals wanting a ride waved a white flag or towel signaling the steamship to stop at their dock.
By world War I, roads of better quality were constructed and the need for steamships diminished. The steamship Okoboji was removed from service in 1922. By the 1930's, the last two smaller steamships, the Des Moines and the Sioux City, had been retired. Only the Queen remained. When the swing bridges were removed the Queen was restricted to operations on West Okoboji Lake.
With the development of roads around the lakes, the Queen became
an excursion boat instead of a transportation boat, prolonging her career until 1973 when she was removed from service.
In 1986, the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum, a not-for-profit organization, solicited donations to construct the Queen II, a replica of the 1884 Queen. The beloved tradition of steamship excursions on West Okoboji Lake continues.