Shop Small 716: Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours

LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) – Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours has been operating for 30 seasons, taking guests on a wild ride to experience the Niagara River rapids up close.

The ride is a popular attraction for visitors to the falls – especially international visitors, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours president John Kinney said.

“If you were to go to Egypt, you’d want to see the pyramids – when you come to Niagara, you want to see Niagara Falls,” Kinney said. “We give them a real experience, not just seeing the falls, but the rapids that are below the falls, which are the most dynamic aspect of the Niagara River.”

The ride is exciting, but safe for kids four and up and seniors in their 80s and 90s, Kinney added.

“When you see the jet boats splashing through these waves, there are some people who think this is a thrillseeker experience, but we take young kids, multi-generational families with grandparents – this is something that really anyone can do,” Kinney added.

The Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours fleet currently has nine boats – from the classic “wet jet” open boat, where everyone on board gets soaked, to a hybrid boat called the “freedom jet” – “because you’re free to stay dry or free to get wet”, Kinney explained.

COVID-19 had a huge impact on international travel, and attractions that draw international tourists.

“COVID has had an even greater impact on tourism than 9/11 – I didn’t think that anything could effect international travel more than that,” Kinney said. “Fortunately, this is such a unique experience for people who are looking for something to do something COVID-safe and outdoors.”

The company has operations on the Canadian side of the border as well.

Kinney says in the 30 years that the attraction has been operating, a lot has changed in both Western New York and Southern Ontario.

“When I first came here, the wine industry was in its infancy and just coming on,” Kinney recalled. “Now, it’s a huge part of the visitor experience here.”

Adventure tours and activities within the Niagara Gorge are also new developments.

“Even cycling has become a bigger and more involved experience – there are much more diverse offerings here than there were 30 years ago,” Kinney said.

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Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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