Did you know that scenic river bluffs cut right in the middle of Iowa? Iowa Falls, located an hour northeast of Des Moines, offers visitors views of these beautiful bluffs along the Iowa River that bisects the community. One of the best ways to see the bluffs is aboard the Scenic City Empress, a 50-passenger double-decker pontoon boat that travels the river. Since its debut excursion in 1991, thousands of visitors have enjoyed the narrated one to two-hour cruise that takes guests past picturesque limestone bluffs, wildlife, an historic swinging bridge, and a waterfall.
The Scenic City Empress Boat Club, the boat’s official dock, was founded at the height of the Great Depression in 1937 as a gathering place for residents. The club sits on the banks of the river, providing guests breathtaking views of the towering river bluffs, and can be reserved for reunions, weddings, baby and bridal showers, and other special events. Renovations in 2012 replaced the club’s wood exterior. Inside, the original wood finish makes the club a cozy location.
The boat club’s members also understand the importance of education and keeping Iowa’s natural resources viable. They volunteer to participate in IOWATER Testing, which samples the Iowa River for harmful chemicals. School groups can join an area naturalist to explore the river’s ecosystem aboard a special cruise. Public cruises are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., June through mid-October. Private charters and catered cruises are also available.
Visit traveliowa.com to explore all of Iowa Falls.