It wouldn’t be summer in Bay City without Free History Tours on the Saginaw River. Local sponsors have again stepped forward to make this staple possible for the 24th year. Bay City Boat Lines has operated the free tours on weekday mornings since 1998.
2021 Free History Tour partners include Ieuter Insurance Group,Krzysiak House Restaurant, 1st State Bank and Doubletree Hotel Bay City Riverfront. These partners provide a majority of the funding necessary for the free tours. Bay City Boat Lines picks up remaining costs. Each of these companies has been providing services in their respective fields (insurance, banking, catering and event services) to Bay City Boat Lines for many years and are trusted business partners. Their support is critical to the program and demonstrates a strong commitment to the quality of life in the surrounding region.
This year’s schedule will begin July 5 and continue Monday through Friday at 10am through July 30th. Long time tour guides Sherry Clements and Nancy “Mouth of the River” Rousse put their knowledge, humor and hospitality to work on the two-hour daily tours, delighting guests of all ages.
Each year Nancy and Sherry bring something new and interesting to the tours and cover everything from the lumbering days to Bay City’s maritime heritage, woven into stories about landmarks and the significance of the Saginaw River and its watershed. Their love for the community is apparent in their enthusiasm and depth of knowledge.
The entire crew of Bay City Boat Lines enjoy hosting guests for these tours each summer as many guests who attend have never experienced a boat ride on the Saginaw River and everyone leaves with smiles on their faces. It is especially fun to see locals view where they live from an entirely new perspective. Visitors to Bay City are impressed with the beauty of downtown, the working riverfront, along with natural riverbank areas and their inhabitants including the bald eagles that are seen quite regularly. The company’s motto “life is better on a boat” is carried out in the passion the crew has for their work and the warm welcome they extend to passengers aboard both the Princess Wenonah and Islander tour boats.
The tours will depart from on the Princess Wenonah this season, a change from recent years. The Princess Wenonah is moored at Wenonah Park in downtown Bay City where she is instantly recognizable along the riverfront this summer. The new site offers convenient access to hotels, eateries, downtown shopping and the heavily trafficked riverwalk. Guests of the Doubletree Hotel have a birds-eye view of the iconic vessel from the Riverfront Grille and many guest rooms.
Reservations for tours open up two weeks in advance at www.baycityboatlines.com, and must be made online. Guests are limited to four free tickets per household each season, and are subject to availability. All ages are welcome. The first week of free tours for 2021 (July 5th through 9th) will be open for booking on Monday, June 21, 2021.
Groups and larger parties can not be accommodated on free tours, but can be reserved on paid afternoon tours on Fridays and Saturdays at 1:00pm. Private tours can be arranged at other times for parties of 30 or more guests.
After a delayed start, Bay City Boat Lines is back on the water for public cruising
This spring and summer has seen unprecedented interest in outdoor recreation, dining and activities. With a spacious open-air layout, the Princess Wenonah and Islander are well-suited to hosting guests seeking a safe, fun way to enjoy a few hours on the water with family or friends.
Free History Tours return for a limited time in July 2020
For the past 22 years, generous local sponsors have teamed up with Bay City Boat Lines to offer free public tours on weekday mornings. These tours are hit with kids and grown ups alike, sharing interesting facts about how our community and the river it grew up around has evolved over the years. While current events made funding difficult this year, there are still 4 weeks of free tours available this season, running from July 6th through July 31st.
Special thanks to our #keeptheboatsafloat crowdfunding campaign sponsors, who have made the first week a reality, and to our three committed sponsors who round out the month: Krzysiak House Restaurant, the Bay County Realtor Association and Ieuter Insurance Group. Up to four tickets may be reserved by a household this year, at no cost thanks to our sponsors. To sign up for the tour, visit our website up to two weeks ahead and reserve your spot.
New events on the horizon?
As we cautiously tiptoe though a safe start to the season, Bay City Boat Lines will continue to explore opportunities for new events as visitor traffic and interest allows. Keep an eye on our website or Facebook page for announcements.
Safe Cruising with Bay City Boat Lines
The safety of our guests and crew is important to us. Find out what we are doing to provide to protect us all by viewing our Safe Cruising Guidelines before you book.
When something is good, you want it to last. And last it has.
For 22 seasons, Bay City Boat Lines has partnered with local businesses to offer individuals a chance to do something special for free – the opportunity to cruise the Saginaw River by boat and learn about the history of the river and the communities surrounding it.
The staff of Bay City Boat Lines takes particular pride in offering this service to the public because it allows locals and visitors of all ages access to the boats and the riverfront. Many passengers have lived in the area their entire lives and have never seen their hometown from the river, where the perspective of the community is completely different.
Onboard tour guides delight in sharing colorful stories of the lumbering, shipbuilding and industrial eras, showing off recent developments along the banks and helping riders spot a variety of wildlife including waterfowl, deer and bald eagles along the way. The trip is relaxing, informative and appreciated by all ages.
The Saginaw River is typically peaceful and quiet on these weekday morning tours, which is a great start to a day of exploration in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Departing at 10 a.m. and returning at 12 p.m., the next logical step after the tour is to enjoy one of the area’s restaurants or visit one of the riverfront parks you cruised by for a picnic lunch. Lots of other attractions, shopping and recreation is available nearby to complete a day of fun for families, friends or out of town visitors.
Often, visitors are amazed when they hear the annual tours are free. They wonder “what’s the catch”? Fortunately, there isn’t one, thanks to the generosity of others. Bay City Boat Lines has been fortunate to find several community partners who consistently step forward to help fund the tours every year. This year, seven weeks of tours will be offered beginning July 8 and continuing through August 23. The route varies by day, heading North, or downriver through active areas such as downtown Bay City and beyond on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday trips take the South route upriver through more quiet and natural scenery, while still offering interesting stories.
The History Tours take place aboard Islander, an iconic red and white boat originally used to ferry passengers to offshore islands in Wisconsin. Built in 1946, she is a sturdy steel double-decker and is perfect for sight seeing from either deck with comfortable seating, shady cover and a snack bar to tide you over until lunch.
This year’s series of tours kick off July 8 -12 courtesy of the Bay City Fireworks Festival Committee and BaySail. Come into town the weekend prior to enjoy one of the state’s biggest and best known Fireworks displays. A three day Fireworks Festival features entertainment, a carnival, craft show and other activities, all capped off by nightly Fireworks Displays. The Princess Wenonah will also host a dinner cruise on Saturday, July 6th with a live band to celebrate the holiday and raise funds for the festival.
The Bay County Realtors Association brings you Week 3, with tours every weekday morning from July 22 – 26th. The end of the week is capped off by Downtown Bay City’s Sidewalk Sale Days, beginning Thursday, for those who enjoy shopping sales street fair style. Bay City is known for its boutique and specialty shops, featuring everything from unique women’s clothing, home decor, antique stores, vinyl record purveyors and used books to name a few.
Finally Bay City Boat Lines picks up Week 7 to end the summer series of Free History Tours, at 10am daily August 19 -23. Stay in town to check out A Taste of Downtown Bay City in the new Nickless Pavilion Saturday afternoon, with a dozen local eateries offering samples of their wares. All summer long you can also catch Bay City Boat Lines other vessel, Princess Wenonah for a Friday night Entertainment & Dinner Cruise. The Princess Wenonah is the larger of the two fleet mates and the evening atmosphere is lively, with top side dancing and a full bar onboard.
Because they are free, the tours are extremely popular and all seats are generally reserved in advance. Reservations open two weeks ahead through Bay City Boat Lines website and have a limit of six per household, to ensure that as many different people enjoy the tour and that no seats go unused (groups are referred to paid Saturday tours or private tours to keep free seats open for families and travelers).
If you haven’t visited Bay City or the Great Lakes Bay Region, or if you live nearby and keep meaning to “be a tourist in your own town”, what are you waiting for? A warm welcome and a new adventure awaits!