Waco Tours launched their first river cruise on Sept. 11. David Ridley is one of the founders and an avid fisherman. He said he was pushing for a boat initially, but he and the company wanted to be sure they could do one thing perfectly first.
“We just started the river cruise about a month and a half ago, and it has been a blast. People go on our van tour, and then they come on this and say this is the highlight of their weekend. I think just because it’s relaxing, and when you go on vacation or get away from everyday life it’s fun to be on a boat,” Ridley said.
Melinda Seibert, executive director of operations for Waco Tours, said that the content of the river cruise is entirely different from the classic tour on vans because there is more time to go into detail about the Waco attractions and history on the boat. “We try to not cross over. On the river tour, it’s a lot about living water and the impact that’s had throughout the years; we have a lot of stories,” Seibert said.
Some of the stories that make up the living water narrative involve the artesian wells at Indian Spring Park. They were said to have healing properties and be the origin of the Brazos River’s name. The river was previously called “Rio de Brazos de Dios,” which means River of the Arms of God.
The tale behind this involves some travelers who, in their journey across Texas, had not come across a body of water in some time. The native Huaco tribe led the perishing travelers to the river, where they said the experience was like falling into the arms of God.
Waco Tours was not the first to show visitors the city from the water. Ryan Helm started the Waco River Safari last summer.“Honestly, there’s a ton of people coming to Waco to visit, so competition doesn’t affect [the amount of business],” Helm said.
Ryan Helm decided to create a more relaxing and fulfilling job for himself after driving a truck for Suncoast for two years and working heavy-labor jobs in the oil industry before that. With his own money, he bought a boat and slowly progressed and learned the ropes of the business. At the time, there were no other boat tours. He focuses on the history of downtown and the wildlife on the Brazos river.
“I think the concept is to get on a boat and relax, and so some sightseeing away from hustle and bustle of Magnolia. This is another way to relax in Waco,” Helm said.
At the end of the excursion, Kyle Van Hecke, a Waco Tours guide, summarized his perspective and the company’s hopes for their guests.
“We’ve been viewing Waco and the bodies of water as sources of life, so we hope that this tour has been life-giving for you,” Van Hecke said. “I find that it is a profound exercise for me personally as I come on these tours — I like to take inventory of the things I draw life from. Making a habit of taking inventory is a healthy thing to do.”