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River tours expected to resume next month

[5/18/03]Tours of the Mississippi River will begin again next month, nearly two years after the last time such boat rides were open to the public.

Jimmy and Ann Biedenharn Jones of Vicksburg plan to begin operating a river boat tour company around June 1, Ann Jones said Saturday. An 87-passenger boat they purchased for the tours is coming from New Jersey and will operate from City Front.

“It’s in really good shape, but it has a bunch of signs on it we are going to have to remove,” Jones said.

She said they plan to rent and renovate the train caboose at the former Levee Street Depot to be used as a ticket office for tours in the Yazoo Diversion Canal and Mississippi River. The tours will run twice a day, and the boat will be available to rent for private functions, she said.

The last passenger tours of the river ended two years ago when David and Peggy Schaeffer closed their business, Mississippi River Adventures, and sold their 45-passenger jet boat to a company in Washington.

The Schaeffers began operating from City Front in 1990, but left in 2001 during a rift with a former city administration over rent and duties. They also cited an insufficient number of customers to continue the venture.

When the Schaeffers closed, many in local tourism lamented the loss of an asset to offer visitors and expressed hope that water tours on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers would resume.

Ann Jones said she and her husband plan to dock their boat at the Vicksburg Harbor and drive it south to City Front when trips are scheduled.

Long-range plans for the City Front area include the former Corps of Engineers flagship towboat MV Mississippi, owned by Vicksburg. It will be a museum, but not available for excursions.