PHOTOS and VIDEO: The Lake Charles Borealis Rex Mail Steamer
It's a name I have heard a few times. In fact, there's even a Louisiana band that carries the same name. The famous Lake Charles mail and transportation boat called a Packet vessel named the Borealis Rex was not originally from Lake Charles. That made me realize I had NO clue about this vessel and started digging around.
The Borealis Rex was built in Stillwater, Minnesota in 1888. It was 146 feet long and 36 feet wide. It ran around Minnesota for two years until it was brought over to the Illinois River in 1890. From there it was brought down to Natchez in 1903 and would make two weekly runs to Atchafalaya and then the Black, Ouachita, Tensas, and Little Rivers.
In 1905, the vessel was purchased by the Lake Charles and Cameron Transportation Company. It was brought over from New Orleans by way of the Gulf of Mexico and into Lake Charles. The trip to Lake Charles was a feat in itself due to the fact the vessel was nowhere near designed to handle the large swells of the Gulf. Eventually, mother nature would have her way with the vessel, it actually sank in 1918 from a hurricane, but was raised in 1919 and got back to work!
Once in Lake Charles, the boat continued its mail duties and also would transport people and packages between Lake Charles and Cameron. By day, according to Trent Gremillion, the vessel would make the trip from Lake Charles to Cameron in 8 hours. During its day trips, it would transport cattle, people, and brand-new Model T's back and forth. At night, in typical SWLA style, the boat would be used for parties featuring bands, dances, and random joy rides. Tell me that doesn't sound like something we would still do to this day!
Eventually, the vessel would be retired in 1930 due to highway systems being built. The boat was anchored at the Pujo Street Dock and sat there and rotted until it was sold off for junk for $110 dollars. The boilers and metal materials were scrapped for war materials. You can actually visit where the Rex was last moored by heading to the Lake Charles Civic Center. There is a placard near the flag poles that marks where the Rex was last moored before being sold for scrap.
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