Pontoon's free tours float on in Frankfort

Published online: Sep 23, 2011 News Kevin Wheatley - The State Journal
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The city's Kentucky River pontoon tour has proved so popular after just one year that it will expand operations.

The city will add a noon tour and a 5 p.m. launch on Thursdays starting Oct. 3 as well as a 2 p.m. final tour Oct. 30, said Jim McCarty, co-director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Department.

There's also talk of adding a stop at Capitol View Park once a boat dock is added so riders can have lunch during early afternoon tours as well as a guest register to track visitors, he said.

Other long-term ideas in the works include night tours and another pontoon, McCarty says.

In its first year on the river, the city's pontoon tour has far exceeded the department's expectations. This year's tours began April 1.

"People love it," McCarty said. "I've always said this: there's something magical about water. Whether it's the ocean or it's the river or it's a lake, water draws people."

The tours, which are free and launch from River View Park, cruise to Lock 4 before turning around and heading upstream toward Capitol View Park.

Throughout the one-hour trip aboard the pontoon dubbed the Nancy Wilkinson, a parks employee provides riders with tidbits about Frankfort's history, such as how the city was named (after Native Americans killed pioneer Stephen Frank at "Frank's Ford" near the mouth of Benson Creek in 1780).

They also hear about "The Craw," a rough neighborhood near Wilkinson Boulevard that was slated for demolition in the 1950s and eventually replaced with the Capital Plaza complex.

The tour also gives riders, some of whom have never traveled the Kentucky River, a unique perspective of some sites the city offers, such as The Singing Bridge; the picturesque spires of the former Good Shepherd Catholic Church, old Paul Sawyier Public Library and the old Franklin County Court House; and the light on top of the Capitol dome peeking over the treetops.

The tours are such a hit, according to McCarty, that sometimes patrons are turned away if the pontoon, which seats about 12, is booked solid during a weekend.

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