ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Park District's iconic paddlewheel riverboats will cruise up and down the Fox River again starting July 1.
The boats will be in operation again as a result of the region moving into Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan on Friday. Based on Illinois Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the two boats will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity.
Normally, the riverboats are operating by mid-May. The park district has been receiving calls on a regular basis asking when the paddlewheel riverboats will start operating again.
"They're definitely a Tri-Cities favorite," St. Charles Park District Superintendent of Recreation Mike Kies said. "We wanted to get on the river and we've been ready to get on the river."
This is the second year the St. Charles Park District has been operating the paddlewheel riverboats. The district purchased the St. Charles Belle II and the Fox River Queen paddlewheel riverboats in 2019 after Rich Anderson, owner and operator of the St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats for 32 years, decided to retire.
Anderson, the second generation owner of St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats, inherited the business from his father and company founder Chet Anderson in the late 1980s. The family-owned business had offered daily sightseeing trips and private group charters from Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles since 1945.
"This is a multi-generational experience here in our community," Kies said. "We're very proud of it and we're very excited to get back on the river and start cruising again."
Besides limiting capacity on the paddlewheel riverboats, the Park District will take several other precautions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We'll be doing cleaning, disinfecting and asking that the participants do their own wellness checks," Kies said.
Those boarding the paddlewheel riverboats will also be encouraged to wear face coverings, he said. More information is available at stcriverboats.com.