For fans of nature documentaries, that first venture out into the natural can be a frightening and bewildering experience, especially when no halting British voice explains the confusing scenery. Overcome the perplexities of the outdoors with today’s Groupon: for $10, you get a 90-minute narrated nature cruise on the Dolly Steamboat, which makes its home at Canyon Lake Marina in Tortilla Flat. Tickets are normally $20 for adults, $12 for children ages five to 12, and free for children under four (prices include tax). Tours leave at noon and 2 p.m. every day (the 2 p.m. trip is reservation only).
While perched on the decks of a sternwheeler straight out of Mark Twain’s rowdy river days, passengers aboard the Dolly Steamboat float merrily down the liquid highway that runs between Canyon Lake’s cliff walls, which tower up to 500 feet above the water. During the fully narrated excursion, the captain will discuss the lore and legends of the historic Apache Trail and the nearby Superstition Mountains. During the trip, turn your attention toward cliffhanging spies disguised as bighorn sheep, bobcats, and turkey vultures, and point out the exact location where Teddy Roosevelt liked to camp and still lives. Deep inside the alluring Tonto National Forest, boaters can study interesting rock formations, gaze at the beautiful scenery, and snap photos of towering saguaros.
The Phoenix New Times considers a ride on the Dolly Steamboat the best Mississippi River experience for locals and tourists, aside from inner-tubing down the actual river's more than 2,000 miles of white-water rapids. Food and drinks are available for purchase on board, the lower cabin is air conditioned, and Dolly is conveniently wheelchair accessible. Explore the sights from inside a water bus as it slices through what some have called the Junior Grand Canyon.
Must call ahead for reservations.
The Phoenix New Times rates Dolly Steamboat the Best Mississippi River Experience—pretty impressive when you consider it's not within 500 miles of the Mississippi:
- This recently restored sightseeing boat cruises the lake like Tom Sawyer once did down south. Though the big-wheeled boat floats like something from Mark Twain's era, the rocky landscape in the deep valley of the lake is uniquely Western. – Phoenix New Times
Nine Yelpers give it an average rating of 4.5 stars:
For more than 25 years the Grimh family has served as gatekeeper to the secluded beauty of Canyon Lake, welcoming travelers onto their modernly appointed paddle steamboat. The vessel plots courses for guided cruises, each of which highlight the canyon's vistas at a different hour. Nature and lunch cruises seek out bighorn sheep drawing pistols under the bright desert sun, whereas twilight cruises combine ambient, evening light with a buffet dinner of prime rib or filet mignon. Dolly Steamboats also set off at night for an astronomy cruise that includes dinner and expert star reading from local television and radio personality, Dr. Sky. An expert crew pilots the Dolly and her wealth of passengers on each photogenic excursion, gliding past the Sonoran Desert, rock formations, and the Tonto National Forest.
16802 NE Highway 88
Tortilla Flat, Arizona 85290Get Directions