Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Amazing Views Rivers of Steel Launches New Riverboat Tours That Link Past to Present

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Amazing Views Rivers of Steel Launches New Riverboat Tours That Link Past to Present

Article excerpt

As the 94-foot-long riverboat Explorer waited at the dock next to the Carnegie Science Center on Thursday morning, the sky was gray, but spirits were up.

Rivers of Steel was about to give its first public boat tour of the three rivers.

"While it's blue skies most of the time, it's still Pittsburgh," joked Bill Flanagan, vice chairman of Rivers of Steel, before the Explorer's departure. "It's still cloudy."

Mr. Flanagan, who is also chief corporate relations officer for the Allegheny Conference, said the tour would showcase industrial innovation of the 19th century as well as environmental innovation of the 21st. "Enjoy it, learn a little bit and most of all, spread the word," he said.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area was created by Congress in 1996 to preserve and manage the historic, cultural and natural resources of the steel and related industries that span eight counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 2016, it acquired the assets of the nonprofit RiverQuest, which included its boat Voyager, a type of floating classroom that gave environmental tours to teachers and students.

August Carlino, president and CEO of Rivers of Steel, said it was always the organization's goal to expand to the river.

"The great thing about our idea was that it was an idea. But we didn't have a boat," Mr. Carlino said. Now it has a riverboat, commissioned in the Florida Panhandle more than 10 years ago, renamed Explorer and refurbished to begin providing tours this summer.

The goal of the 90-minute tour, called "PGH 101: An Intro to Innovation," is to showcase an understanding of where the region is today. Proceeds from the tours will help underwrite Rivers of Steel's STEM-based education programs.

There are plans for summer camps aboard Explorer and for regular tours to continue through the summer, with education being the primary focus. The boat also can be rented for corporate events, weddings and more to bring in additional revenue.

Thursday's tour encompassed the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers and was led by Sean Carroll, who shared anecdotes on everything from the number of bridges in the city to how Pittsburgh got its name to the history of Pittsburgh's unique accent. …

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