Boat service could offer 'great asset' for Nauvoo, Montrose

Posted: Mar. 8, 2014 6:54 pm Updated: Mar. 29, 2014 11:14 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

NAUVOO, Ill. -- Randy Douglas hopes resurrecting an idea from Nauvoo's past will build on its present tourism potential.

The Nauvoo man and his business partner, Don Faulkner of Hamilton, hope to launch a riverboat ferry, docked at the foot of Parley Street, by mid-May or June.

The Nauvoo City Council could take the final step Tuesday night to clear the way for the boat service if it acts on a street committee recommendation to grant a 10-year lease for the dock site.

"Things are moving along," Douglas said. "It's just working out the details making sure all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed."

Plans call for the boat to offer evening wine-and-cheese cruises, sightseeing cruises with recorded narration and cruises for special events like reunions and weddings, "but the base of it will probably be six trips a day back and forth between Nauvoo and Montrose, (Iowa)," Douglas said.

"We think it will be a great asset, something we think will help draw people here and make those that come have a much more enjoyable experience and appreciate what we have here with this beautiful river that flows by both of our cities."

Nauvoo Mayor John McCarty said the proposal will provide another tourism opportunity for the city.

"To see the banks of Nauvoo from the river point of view is a whole new experience," he said. "If you've ever been out in a boat and looked at the bluffs, you get a whole different feel for the area. It gives everybody a different perspective of what is here."

Oquawka Boats will build the ferry, which will be 40 feet long, 12 feet wide and hold 64 passengers.

"Ours won't be a riverboat. It will be, in essence, a very large johnboat, fairly flat, with padded seats and a canopy over it and a rail all around," Douglas said.

The boat, powered by two 150-horsepower engines, is designed to ferry people, not vehicles. Wheelchair tiedowns and storage space for bicycles and strollers will be available.

Douglas said the mile-long river crossing will take about 17 to 20 minutes "at a very leisurely pace" -- a shorter trip than driving south to Hamilton or north to Niota to cross the river into Iowa.

Nauvoo has a long history of riverboat travel, but hasn't had an excursion boat in decades.

"The proposed boat would add an excellent attraction to the Nauvoo and Montrose area," said Kim Orth, executive director of the Nauvoo Tourism Office. "The experience of being on the Mississippi River is something that our visitors and our residents would enjoy. I often have to refer visitors inquiring about a Mississippi River experience to the Quad Cities or to Hannibal, (Mo.). This project would keep people in the Nauvoo area and would have a significant economic impact to Nauvoo."

The boat also will cater to area residents.

"A lot of locals will just enjoy it," Douglas said. "We plan on having a cruise that will take people down through the locks. A lot of people never have gone through the locks here in Keokuk."

Douglas and Faulkner have been working with city officials in recent months to move the project forward.

"The biggest problem is where to dock," McCarty said. "We don't have a really good boat harbor facility that's easy access for boats like that and to have a lot of people come in. The end of Parley Street is where the ferry used to run years ago to Montrose."