Root River Boat Tours

What are the Root River Boat Tours?

In 2018 and 2019, GGR initiated Pontoon boat tours up the Root River. The river is not so visible from roads or bridges, so the purpose is to enable people to become familiar with this “Hidden Gem of Racine. The REC Center provided Parkside students to serve as tour guides.

There were no boat tours during 2019 and 2020. There are plans to resume tours in the summer of 2022.

For more information on Root River Boat Tours, you can continue scrolling down.

Download the brochure to check out access points along the Root River. 

A Root River boat tour planning committee and members of Greening Greater Racine and the Root River Council have been planning to emphasize the beauty and importance of the Root River: The Hidden Gem of Racine.
Our desire is to attract diverse member of the community and tourists that come to enjoy North Beach, Lake Michigan and downtown Racine. We now have a tour planned that will begin after the 4th of July. The Root River Environmental Educational Community Center (REC)  1301 W. 6th St., University of Wisconsin-Parkside is working in cooperation with this effort and will provide college student tour guides. The REC Center will be open weekends beginning June 1 and still offer low-cost canoe and kayak rides.

The Root River: The Hidden Gem of Racine ​ A Proposal for Pontoon Boat Tours on the River

Trial run on a pontoon 2019
First time trial run on a dinghy in 2018
Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, Racine, WI, is a water-centric Midwestern community boasting a 921-slip publicly-owned marina, three yacht clubs, a well-established charter sport-fishing industry, and one of the nation’s top-rated public beaches, among other water-related amenities.

Yet a defining natural resource in the community, the Root River, remains a “hidden gem.” Views of the river cannot be gained easily from travelling streets or traversing bridges. 

Also, the general populace has limited recreational access to the river as it meanders through the heart of the community to its harbor on Lake Michigan. The public additionally lacks:
  • A personal understanding of the river’s ecology and its environmental challenges
  • Knowledge of the historical role of the Root River in the development of Racine
  • A clear picture from the river of where new post-manufacturing developments will occur.
It should be noted that leaders in the public and private sectors have recognized an opportunity for entrepreneurial activity at water’s edge and are advancing multiple projects to rebuild the community’s tax base on former manufacturing sites along the river. This is bringing greater attention to the Root River as a local treasure.

The Proposal
Our challenge is to provide a safe, on-the-water experience, enabling the public to enjoy the river and learn more about it. Here is how it might work.
With its Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC) at 1301 W. Sixth St., University of Wisconsin-Parkside already provides low-cost canoe and kayak rentals for the public to explore the approximately 3 miles of navigable river from the harbor to Island Park. This facility includes educational programming about the Root River corridor as led by college students on independent study. With programming and staffing in place, UW-Parkside is positioned to expand the REC Center’s offerings and have students serve as tour guides.

Tours last about 90 minutes as the boat plies the river between Reefpoint Marina and Island Park at the no-wake pace of approximately 5 mph. Shorter tours could be offered as well. Opportunity exists to incorporate such an experience into existing land-based tours of the city. Signs identifying streets could be placed on bridges under which the boat would pass to help those on the tour keep track of where they are in the city while on the water.

Continued service into 2020
Pontoon boat owners continue to be sought to keep this service going. Ideally, each pontoon boat captain would provide two to three tours on varying dates, accommodating eight 8 to 10 passengers and a tour guide, weather permitting. Docking space is available at Reef Point Marina.
Captains should be experienced boaters and hold appropriate licenses/certifications, including CPR training. They could serve on a volunteer basis or for compensation. Please contact Marvin Letven, [email protected], if you would like to participate. 

Long-term Plans
If sufficient demand is found for the service, it should be advanced as self-sustaining. A private entity subsequently may have interest in taking over the tours.
Tours could be offered in future years on a rental basis for the general public and possibly also for private functions, such as weddings and corporate outings. It has been determined that at this point, consumption of alcohol would not be allowed on board.
Please note that the tour planning group has obtained a verbal commitment from a corporate source to provide a new outboard motor for a craft.

Community Support
Financial support is being sought from community service groups, individuals, businesses, government entities and non-profit organizations. 

The Goal
In summary, a boat tour on the Root River would serve many functions: recreation, education about the environmental features and challenges of the river; information about development plans along the river, attraction of tourists, and the enhancement of our reputation as a water-centric community. Community history related to the river, identification of flora and fauna and degradation of the river are examples of programming to be offered on the tour. Ultimately our vision is to have the Root River become an energetic and integral part of the life of Greater Racine.

Members of the Root River Boat Tour Planning Committee
Convener, David Rhoads, director of Greening Greater Racine
Dave Backmann, board of directors, Greening Greater Racine
Todd Brennan, Alliance for the Great Lakes
Christopher Hovorka, Citizen Champion
Marvin Letven, Root River Council, Greening Greater Racine
Laura Schulz, director of the UW-Parkside REC Center
Mera Yi, board of directors, Greening Greater Racine
Tricia Blasko, Culture and Diversity WAVE Team, Visioning a Greater Racine

​Journal Times: Officials taking boat tours to learn about Root River, inspire future plans

Chris Hvorka has been a key resource to the Root River Boat Team in making Greening Greater Racine’s initiative move forward by donating his time and his boat. The Journal Times covers a recent feasibility trip with our partner, the Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC), and city officials. Click HERE for the article.