Review of Willamette Jetboat Tours:
As someone who lives near Portland, Oregon, I have enjoyed the Willamette Jetboat tours twice in the last few years. Willamette Jetboat Excursions is the company I go with and they have been offering rides on the Willamette River for over ten years now. When the sun is shining and you have a few hours to go, check out the tours that run from the end of April through the end of September. They offer a 2 hour scenic tour and a 1 hour bridge tour. I would highly recommend the 2 hour scenic tour that takes you up the Willamette past the city and then all the way back down the river to the famous Willamette Locks located in West Linn. Two hours on the river goes by fast and you will enjoy not only the scenery but the exciting spins that the boat does along the way. You will get wet no matter where you sit, so bring along some rain gear if you want to try and stay dry. I have sat both up front behind the windshield portion of the boat and in the middle of the back portion, both times getting wet enough that I still hadn't dried off by the time the boat came back to the OMSI area.
Even though they offer free tickets to children 3 and under, I would say leave the little ones at home for this trip as it can get a little scary when the boat does its spin around moves. If you have an adventurous 4 or 5 year old, they should be able to handle the ride as most of the time it's very relaxing and enjoyable for all. The pilots of these boats are friendly and quite funny as they narrate the trip along the river. If you are visiting the city of Portland from out of town, look into taking the jetboat ride one day if the weather is good. You can view all the details on their official website HERE
. You can make reservations over the phone ahead of time to guarantee a spot on a boat, but I also walked up to the ticket booth on a Thursday morning and got tickets without a problem. Whether you are a resident of the Portland metro area or just visiting the Rose City, you'll get a better perspective of Portland by being on the water and seeing the skyline and bridges from down below.
Location, Parking, Rates:
Finding the Willamette Jetboat Excursions location and parking lot is quite easy. They are located next to the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) in downtown Portland so you can just follow the signs that point you towards OMSI. If you are coming from the south of the city, take I-5 and get off on the exit that mentions OMSI. Parking is available near the docks, but now you can also park in their primary near 1945 SE Water Ave. Signs will guide you as you get near OMSI that mention the Jetboat tours. You can call them for tickets at 503-231-1532 or toll free at 1-888-538-2628. Their website listed above will show you maps with detailed driving directions on how to get their. As for the rates, the 2-hour tour is $31/adult and $19/kids (4-11). The 1-hour tour is $21/adult and $14/child. Boarding times vary by month, but in peak season you can get on an 11AM, 2 PM, or 6PM boat for the 2-hour tours. They load boats about 15 minutes before departure times.
The Ride Itself:
Expect to have some fun, lots of it on these jetboat rides. You start down along the dock by OMSI and get on the boat. You start north past the city (on the 2 hour tour) and go under several of the bridges (Burnside, Morrison, etc). The pilot narrates much of the history of the city as you slowly maneuver along the waterfront. When the boat gets into open water where it is safe, you will reach speeds of 45 MPH. The boats are loaded with power so don't worry about too many passengers bogging it down. The pilots have years of training and experience and do a great job. Part of the fun is doing spins in these boats and that is where the water will get you wet. The pilots wait for a nice open area and then either plunge the front of the boat downwards to get a nice mist/spray onto the passengers or they do a stopping spin in the water that creates a nice wave and splash onto the boat. They've never dump passengers into the water so it's totally safe and fun as well. The scenery takes a turn as you head out of the city and upstream towards the towns of Lake Oswego, Sellwood, and West Linn. The houses that line the riverfront (many are worth millions) are spectacular and the wildlife is amazing. The day I went in August 2007 we saw 3 bald eages, dozens of blue herons, and osprey. The trip ends upstream at the Willmatte Falls which is a great spot for a photo opportunity. Hold tight to any hat you may have on as the wind will surely take it right off. If you like being on a river, then definitely give the Willamette Jetboat tour a chance with your family.