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St. Charles Park District carries on legacy of paddlewheel riverboat cruises

New cruises offer history, relaxation and fun

It’s hard to deny the beauty of the Fox River from any point along the shore whether you’re biking the trail, fishing on Boy Scout Island or looking out from the historic tower at Pottawatomie Park. But nothing can quite compare to experiencing the Fox River during a paddlewheel riverboat cruise on the waterway itself.

This summer, step aboard the Fox River Queen or St. Charles Belle II to experience for yourself the history, the natural beauty and the local pride via a paddlewheel riverboat in your own community.

The riverboat cruises have been a main attraction in St. Charles since the 1940s, when the late Chet Anderson bought his first boat and began chartering cruises from Pottawatomie Park. And this tradition continues under the new ownership of the St. Charles Park District.

“We know the memories and tradition of the riverboat cruises go back many generations,” said Tera Harvey, manager of cruise operations. “We are honored to carry on that experience for so many, but also provide a fresh perspective through multiple new offerings.”

Public cruises, special events and private charters are available this summer, attracting all ages and interests.

“Whether you’ve never been a passenger or have been coming for years, we hope the new cruises enhance your St. Charles experience,” said Jen Bruggeman, assistant superintendent of recreation. “We encourage everyone to climb aboard and fall in love with the Fox River Valley.”

This couldn’t be easier with the line-up of regularly scheduled cruises throughout the week as well as themed cruises offered at special times throughout the summer.

Fifty-minute, regularly scheduled public cruises are available June through August – prefect for last-minute planners. This cruise travels from Pottawatomie Park, north to the Q Center and back again. Along the way, patrons learn about the landmarks and unique history as well as flora and fauna native to the area.

Additionally, the park district hosts special public cruises of various themes for relaxation, exploration or education, and of course fun – all drawing on the knowledge and resources within the park district staff.

The Sunset Cruise is the perfect way to unwind at the end of the day, enjoy a date night or evening out with friends. With the beautiful sunset as your backdrop, munch on appetizers from local restaurants and listen to live music, relaxing in the early evening glow of the night sky.

History Happy Hour on the Fox also provides a unique way to experience the sights and sounds of the Fox River. This 90-minute cruise challenges your local history knowledge while enjoying cocktails and appetizers.

Those interested in learning more about the wildlife on the banks and flying above should check out Fox River EcoCruise or Birding by Boat. Park district naturalists lead the cruises, giving passengers a better understanding of the ecology, wildlife and various species of birds along the river. Binoculars are recommended, but also available for purchase aboard the cruise.

For a fun group outing with youth, surprise children with a Kids Cruise and witness their excitement of boating down the river. During this 50-minute trip for ages 3-12, children engage in eye-spy activities, crafts and design their own sailor hats to take home.

Maybe you’re planning a private event. The park district is continuing to offer private charters for wedding showers, fields trips, birthday or anniversary parties and more. Each riverboat has an upper, open-air deck, and can accommodate 100 guests for sight seeing tours or 40 guests for a seated intimate dinner or luncheon.

Each cruise has items for purchase including binoculars, cotton candy, kettle corn, water and sailor hats for children to decorate (hats during Kids Cruises are included in price).

For more information about the St. Charles Park District Paddlewheel Riverboat Cruises, visit

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