MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A literal diamond in the rough is now on full display just eight hours south of the Quad Cities thanks to the extreme drought. Extremely low water levels in the backwaters of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee, have fully exposed the historic Diamond Lady riverboat casino, which has been parked at the Riverside Park Marina since 2008.
The riverboat, christened on April 1, 1991, by Vanna White in Bettendorf, Iowa, was the first dockside riverboat casino for the Iowa Mississippi River. Strict gaming regulations would cause the owner to move the Diamond Lady along with its sister ship, the Emerald Lady, further south down to Biloxi, Mississippi, one year later.
In 1994, both the Diamond Lady and Emerald Lady were retired and replaced by much larger barges. In 2008, the Diamond Lady was brought to the backwaters of the Mississippi River in Memphis where it sits today.
Most recently, a severe winter storm in 2021 caused a buildup of ice and the riverboat sank substantially into the water. In pictures and video, you can tell where the water once existed. However, now that water levels have significantly receded, the entire boat is now exposed and out of the water.
We spoke exclusively to the owner of Riverside Park Marina, Rita Stanley, who says since the riverboat became more exposed, people have been picking pieces off of it. "A lot of people were stealing parts off of it. So, it sunk. And then my husband had to go over there and get it raised. So, we brought it over here. And we've been watching it for ten years or so, right there in that spot," says Stanley.
We spent quite a bit of time with the ship documenting its numerous features, including the large paddle wheel. Several items from the exterior of the ship are also missing, likely picked over by visitors. The riverboat is on private property and trespassing is not allowed. We would like to thank the owner, Rita Stanley, for allowing us to get a close-up view.
Stanley says the owner of the Diamond Lady currently lives in New Jersey and had plans to do something with the former riverboat. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, that work never started. However, Stanley does believe that once the water comes back in, it will float again.