HADDAM – Over a dozen passengers aboard the RiverQuest Cruise in Haddam recently got a tour of the Connecticut River by Captain Mark Yuknat and Naturalist Cathy Malin.
From the Goodspeed Opera House to Gillette Castle, the Record-Journal was on board to learn more about the popular day trip on the Connecticut River .
“I like to talk about the wildlife mostly,” Yuknat said. “The people are really a lot of fun.”
RiverQuest has been running for 18 years exploring the lower Connecticut River. The boat is one level with a covered canopy area for passengers.
The cruises start in February and March, in coordination with the river museum in Essex. Eagle tours, sunset cruises and daytime cruises are offered in the spring and summer months.
Malin handed out binoculars on a daytime trip to passengers eager to spot a bald eagle.
“A lot of people are just amazed that all this is happening in their backyard,” she said. “They’re sometimes unaware or they remember when there weren't that much wildlife on the river.”
A cruise guest was able to spot a bald eagle up the river perched in a dead tree.
Malin said for some people it is the first time they have ever seen a bald eagle.
“It is pretty impressive, they’re very regal impressive birds,” she said.
Eagles nest in the same area year after year but are easier to see in the winter when the trees are bare. Other birds that can be seen on the cruises include osprey, double-crested cormorants, great egrets and Canada geese.
Several Connecticut landmarks were also part of the river expedition. The boat cruised by the Goodspeed Opera House where actors sometimes hop on the RiverQuest after a show.
“They’re a blast,” Yuknat said of the actors.
The Haddam resident tries to make every cruise a unique experience and often adds new river facts.
The recent daytime cruise took passengers past state protected land that used to house a nuclear power plant.
“It’s all gone now,” Yuknat said.
From there RiverQuest journeyed to an area once visited by pirates.
“I do a lot of reading,” Yuknat said of his knowledge of pirates. “I read about several different pirates that came up the river looking for a place to bury treasure. That fascinated me.”
From pirates to a medieval-style residence turned public park – Gillette Castle.
Passengers watched as the boat floated by the castle on the hill built in 1913 by actor William Gillette.
Yuknat joked that occasionally guests from Europe will be confused as to why the mansion is referred to as a castle.
Though Europe is a long way to come for a cruise, Yuknat said passengers come from all over and often become regulars.
“People will come, they’ll like it and then they’ll bring some friends,” he said. “We get quite a few repeat customers.”
More information can be found at https://ctriverquest.com/