Before the railroad, river waterways were the primary source of travel and the easiest way to move goods. In 1851 steamboats such as the Medora, Jeannette Roberts, Time and Tide, and Minnesota started to navigate the Minnesota River on a more regular basis.
On May 10, 1867, the steamboat Julia was caught in a snag and sunk just north of Mankato near where Happy Chef is located today. Everyone got off safe but some cargo was lost. An attempt was made to save the ship, but only parts could be salvaged and the hull remained in the river. In the late 1860s the railroad arrived in Mankato and become the popular means of travel.
Riverboats returned to the public’s eye on April 27, 1897, when Captain W.W. Paddock, the same captain of the ill-fated Julia, began navigating the Henrietta on a regular route between Mankato and St. Paul. The purpose of these voyages was not to deliver goods but to give people a pleasure cruise. Paddock offered the boat rides each summer until 1909.