Bay City’s Princess Wenonah Back in the Heart of the City

The Iconic Excursion Boat Moved to Wenonah Park in Downtown Bay City on June 9, 2021

June 16, 2021

In 1998, the William M. Miller floated into town and moored at a very different-looking Wenonah Park. Bay City was just developing the riverfront. A few visionaries had grand plans for a system of rail trails, downtown housing, and a revamped downtown. Many local residents could not imagine tourists and visitors thinking of hardscrabble Bay City as a weekend destination on par with Traverse City or Grand Rapids. The Wm. M. Miller was christened Princess Wenonah and began offering free tours and hosting private parties from a dock left vacant by the research vessel Lake Guardian.

Bill and Elaine Fournier with the Princess Wenonah at Wenonah Park ind 2004

Over two decades later, miles of trails wind through Bay County and downtown Bay City. New residents call refurbished buildings home. A vibrant downtown offers dining, shopping, and cultural activities. Suddenly, a city that was once a secret is gaining traction as destination for travelers hungry for a Pure Michigan experience.

Wenonah Park, July 2018

The Princess Wenonah began offering tours and private parties in the the early days, and was soon joined by Islander. As the waterfront developed the Princess Wenonah and Islander were moved to several locations, eventually landing 2 miles south of downtown on the Middleground Island in 2014. Tucked away in a quiet location next to local bar known for live music on the river, Bay City Boat Lines worked hard to draw visitors upriver for tours and events.

Scotty’s SandBar on the Middlegrounds Island, Bay City, August 2017

Reeling from the 2020 pandemic year, Bay City Boat Lines along with local economic development organization Bay Future, renewed a push to bring the Princess Wenonah back to her original berth at Wenonah Park in downtown Bay City. With key support from the Doubletree Hotel and help from the City of Bay City, Bay City Boat Lines successfully negotiated a lease for the summer season back where it all began. The Princess Wenonah once again graces the riverfront to host a new generation of locals and visitors for tours, dinner cruises and entertainment.

Princess Wenonah at Wenonah Park, June 2021

The family-owned and operated business provides a unique perspective of the Saginaw River and the community that surrounds it. Tour guides and crew members are happy to share stories and information with guests aboard the 150 passenger vessel on regularly scheduled tours. Several family members and an experienced, close-knit crew are delighted to help passengers have an safe, enjoyable trip no matter the occasion.

The Doubletree Hotel, Bay City Riverfront adjacent the Princess Wenonah’s Wenonah Park Dock

Partnerships and collaborations tie the Princess and Wenonah and Islander back to the region that supports it. Local businesses help provide funding for a series of free tours, local bands, disc jockeys are put to work on dinner cruises, and another family-owned restaurant, Krzysiak House, and the nearby Doubletree Hotel provide catering options for private events aboard the boat. The owners of Bay City Boat Lines still operate a well-known antiques store just blocks away and believe in the power of local businesses to drive growth and change.

The Princess Wenonah will offer a variety of public events from Wenonah Park beginning in June and continuing through October. For more information see www.baycityboatlines.com or call 989-891-BOAT.

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