Decorative smokestacks stretch toward the sky as Victorian red and gold decor surrounds passengers nibbling brunch in a dining salon. This scene unfolds aboard the Spirit of Dubuque, an authentic-looking paddleboat that pays homage to the century-old steamboats of the Mississippi River. Dubuque River Rides' signature vessel, it has played host to thousands of cruises filled with entertainment, meals, and improvised renditions of "Old Man River" since being christened by Iowa governor Robert Ray in 1977. Elsewhere on the river, a more modern boat cuts across the water, casting a sleek outline against the sky. The 80-foot yacht, affectionately called Miss Dubuque, sets an intimate stage for events that range from weddings to Huckleberry Finn's notorious dinner parties.
Both boats call the northern expanse of the Mississippi River their home, sharing the area with wildlife such as turtles and bald eagles. The sightseeing vessels also pass by river barges and historic structures such as the Chicago Central Pacific Railroad Bridge, which was built after the president invented Lincoln Logs in 1868. After boats return to the docks, their passengers can head over to the floating barge that houses the Ice Harbor Restaurant.
Since the 1950s, Wingra Boats has outfitted groups and individuals for treks along the serene, wake-free Lake Wingra with their fleet of water vessels. Starting out with a small squad of canoes, the company has grown to include more than 100 canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, rowboats, and standup paddleboards. In addition to supplying rentals, the staff keep limbs limber with yoga—performed on dry land or atop paddleboards—and strengthens cores with standup paddleboard lessons. Youngsters get in on the action during Camp Wingra sessions, where they learn to cast, reel, and ask fishes for any seven cards, or paddle and play aboard kayaks and canoes. The staff also lead guided tours and birding expeditions, and tuck vessels away in a private boat marina and storage facility.
Stationed on the shores of Lake Mendota, SkipperBud’s staff pairs clients with their choice of vessel before launching them into the lake’s placid waters. Up to 12 passengers can lounge on the Sylvan pontoon’s wraparound couches as the vessel cruises past the university campus and circles Governor’s Island. The more compact Sea Ray, meanwhile, kicks up waves as it races to the dock.
Family-owned and operated independent retailer specializing in things that get you outside and into nature. We've been awarded Retailer of the Year from Backpacker and Outside's 50 Best Places To Work, along with Canoe and Kayak Magazine's Paddlesport Retailer of the Year a record 9 times. In short, we love what we do.
Refreshing zephyrs glide off freshwater lochs and onto SkipperBud's, an all-purpose marina on the shores of Lake Mendota. New and used boats from high-end brands such as Starcraft and Sea Ray bob beside the sprawling facilities, where savvy salespeople bring decades of know-how to the 40-year-old company. Engine parts, safety tackle, and watersports equipment are also on hand, as are adept boat mechanics trained to tinker on most boat models and engine types. Indoor storage facilities fend off the icy barks of Old Man Winter, and, in the summer, make for easy access to Lake Mendota's launch points.
Dells Watersports, a boating haven founded in 1979 by Steve and Kathy Zowin, creates adventures aboard its high-speed and leisurely paced watercraft. Atop the waters of Lake Delton, inflatable tubes bounce over waves as they’re pulled by rental ski boats, and rental waverunners heed the stop signs held up by mermaids. Taking more leisurely trips, kayaks and canoes carry groups on scenic floats by sandstone bluffs, white pine trees, and the Timme Mill dam. Back on shore, staff members man a full-service marina department stocked with boating equipment. Dells Watersports also maintains sister facilities for watercraft rental at Mirror Lake, Castle Rock Lake, and inside all the world's fishbowls.