Duck Boat Tours May Come to Chicago River

Entertainment Cruises, a Navy Pier-based cruise operator, has submitted a proposal and is in the "latter stages" of planning

Duck boat tours could make a splashy debut in the Chicago River as early as mid-summer.

Entertainment Cruises, a cruise operator based in Navy Pier, has submitted a proposal to lead the tours using duck boats, named because of their ability to traverse land and water, according to Dan Russell, the vice president and general manager of the company.

Duck boat tours already exist in several cities with easy access to waterways around the U.S., including Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia.There used to be a small operation of duck boat tours in Chicago in the late 1990s that took tourists into the lake by Burnham Harbor, but the operation only lasted a couple of years, Russell said.

Entertainment Cruises' duck boat tours would begin at Navy Pier and visit several sites in the city on water and on land, including River North, the Magnificent Mile, the Museum Campus and Millennium Park. Russell estimates the tour would last about one hour and 15 minutes, but he said the time would probably fluctuate based on traffic both on the road and in the river.

If the tour is approved to come to Chicago, ramps would need to be constructed at Marina Towers and West Polk Street. The ramps would be 25 feet long and 73 feet wide, according to the Chicago Tribune. Before the cruise company can begin, however, several agencies need to approve the proposal, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Marina Towers, according to the Tribune.

Russell said the company is in the "latter stages" of planning now, and he expects the plans to be finalized and approved in the next 30 days.

There will not be an official opening date for the tours until the proposal is approved by all necessary parties, but Russell said he is hoping the tours could start with a partial season this summer or a full season next year.

Chicago already has several boat tours, including Shoreline Sightseeing's Chicago Architectural Boat Tour and Navy Pier's dinner cruises, but none of the current tours utilize one vehicle both onshore and offshore.

"Chicago is a magnificent city for tourists to visit and for our own residents," Russell said. "Viewing it from land as it is is wonderful and from the water as it is as well."

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