A family or trusted half dozen friends converge at the boat launch at Boom Island Park, and Mississippi tourism begins anew on the Minneapolis Water Taxi.
Perhaps used to conversing above the din of riverboat engines, one remarks on the relative silence of this little launch. It’s solar electric powered, no gasoline film polluting the water.
Stop talking, and one will hear the birds, perhaps see fish jump, and wave to whoever’s on shore.
Captains Cory Parkos and Greg Hoseth have started river boat rides out of Boom Island Park once more, after implementing new safety precautions. Parties are limited to six persons, and the captain is socially distanced from the guests. Boats are sanitized between customers.
Their fleet of two boats may mark the beginning of a new era on the Mississippi in Northeast. Known for its industrial past, Northeast Minneapolis used its connection to the river to promote business and trade. As the years have ticked by, industry moved outside of the city, making this the perfect time to introduce tourism via one of the best-known rivers in the world.
“We have given tours to people from all over the world” stated Hoseth, “Australia, Japan, the UK, Canada, you name it.” As the second longest river in North America and a prominent location in the Twin Cities, it comes as a surprise that such a grand river is not utilized more often by the tourism industry.
Historically, steamboats forged the way as a means of transport and exploration. Theodore Blegen wrote for the Minnesota Historical Society in 1939, “It was the Mississippi and its steamboats that inaugurated the trade and spread the fame of Minnesota as a vacation land, promising to the enterprising tourist the adventure of a journey to a remote frontier coupled with the enjoyment of picturesque scenery and of good fishing and hunting. Giacomo Beltrami, a passenger on the ‘Virginia’ when that first steamboat on the upper river made its maiden journey In 1823, may perhaps be called the first modern tourist of Minnesota.”
The Padelford Riverboat Company operated its river cruises in Minneapolis from 1988 to 2003. With the closing of St. Anthony Lock & Dam No. 1 in 2015, large riverboats can no longer reach Boom Island.
Popularity of the Stone Arch Bridge, the River Rats Water Ski team and walking tours are small in comparison when you observe river tourism in other parts of the world.
This year the Minneapolis Water Taxi added a wheelchair-accessible electric- powered pontoon to its fleet. As they continue giving tours to an array of customers, they hope to expand their tours by starting partnerships with river-side businesses. Their aim is to offer pick-ups, drop-offs, and experiences through several location stops. “We also have hopes for a marina in the future,” stated Parkos. In the meantime, the team works on providing safe and enjoyable experiences for tours, including limited passengers and regulations to ensure the safety of staff and customer alike.
As tourism industries re-open and develop new safety measures, we may well see new trends. With a lack of high school sports, community events, and postponed dates, RV and boat sales have increased. With so many people flocking to nature, we may well see a spike in Mississippi popularity.
Currently, captains Parkos or Hoseth will loop up past the Lowry Avenue Bridge and down to within view of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge; cruises start on the hour, and last a little less than an hour. They’re happy to narrate, answer questions, or just drive. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., contact Captain Cory Parkos at 612-801-1921.
Below: The Hennepin Avenue Bridge viewed from the Water Taxi. Water Taxi boats, and Captains Cory Parkos and Greg Hoseth. (Photos by Holland Lind)