Illinois Mississippi River Boat Rides

Welcome to our southern "Upper Miss" port of Galena, Illinois! If you haven't been to the charming and historic town of Galena, it is truly like turning back the pages of history. Roughly eighty-five percent of Galena's buildings are in a National Register of Historic Districts. Even the scenic beauty of the surrounding hills and valleys is a testament to being untouched by time. The glaciers that flattened most of North America during the ice age did not encroach on Northwestern Illinois and the immediate areas to the north and west. Consequently the hills, valleys and bluffs in this Mississippi River Valley area remain intact making it one of the most scenic areas in the Midwest. With so much to offer, we highly recommend visiting Galena's tourism information website to learn more about all of the activities in the surrounding area. We have linked their website on this page for your convenience and you can view

You may know this already, but Galena itself is not located on the Mississippi River. However, we operate our unique cruises a short drive out of town at a fantastic hotel called Chestnut Mountain Resort. Please note that you do not have to be a hotel guest to purchase a Mississippi Explorer ticket, Galena has many other nice hotels, but you may find that Chestnut is the perfect place to stay!

Chestnut Mountain Resort - Our Galena Home!

This traditional summer resort, with its magnificent bluff-top overlooks, is an ideal weekend getaway! Whether it's hiking, biking, playing 18-hole's of mini golf, or just hanging out at the pool or hot tubs, Chestnut's got it! Add in a spectacular 1 1/2-hr Wildlife Cruise provided by Mississippi Explorer, with bald eagles, beavers, great blue herons, turtles, pelicans, and much more, and you've got a memorable weekend that's fun for the whole family! 

A full service ski resort in the winter months, Chestnut is the perfect destination for groups, family vacations, romantic getaways, and sightseers during the summer and fall. With 100 slope-side rooms, an indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, and the 
recent renovations of the breathtaking Sunset Grille and Mountain Top Cafe, you may want to extend your stay indefinitely! Chestnut Mountain Resort provides one of the most value-packed experiences available to today's short-distance traveler. If you'd like to visit Chestnut Mountain Resort's website for more information, please click here.

Cruise Includes Alpine Slide & Scenic Chair Lift!

Your Mississippi Explorer cruise ticket includes the usage of Chestnut's Alpine Slide and Scenic Chair Lift! To get to the riverboat located at the base of the hill, hop on a "wheeled" sled and scoot down 2,050 feet of tailored track to the banks of the Mississippi. After the riverboat cruise, the chair lift will whisk you back to the top where on a clear day the three-state view is as much the attraction as the sled ride down. This is a safe, fun and exhilarating ride for all ages, but there's an access road to the boat dock if you'd prefer to drive down yourself. Stop at the front desk and they'll be more than happy to give you the directions to find us at the riverbank.

There are also a lot of other activities available in Galena, such as:

  • Alpine Slide & Scenic Chair Lift
  • Galena & U.S. Grant Museum
  • Mini-Golf, Foot Golf
  • Horseback Riding
  • Apple River Fort State Historic Site
  • Bird Watching

Cruise Schedule

Pre-Pay & Save! Discounted tickets can now be purchased online!

The easiest way to buy tickets for Galena is on our website. Choose your favorite date and fill out the form. Fields marked with * are required and cannot be left blank. A confirmation email will be sent to you within 24 hours after making a booking. Please make sure to print out the email receipt and bring it along to your cruise. Check-in times are 20 minutes prior to departure. Unfortunately tickets can't be purchased at our local ticket booth anymore.

See below for prices. Private Charters are available for groups of 25 or larger beginning mid-April and continuing through early September. Please call for more information.

Accepted payments: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover and PayPal

Cruise Details

  • Duration: 2 hrs
  • Rest room on board
  • Bring your own snacks and beverages
  • Private Charters Starting at 30 People (for more info contact here)
  • Prices: Adults (14+) $18.99; Youth (7-13): $12.99; Kids (0-6): free


Departure Times


11:30 am


11:00 am ; 2:00 pm


11:30 am ; 2:00 pm


11:30 am ; 2:00 pm


1:00 pm

Cruise Descriptions

Please note: All of our cruises venture off of the main-channel of the Mississippi River and into the scenic and wild backwaters. Extraordinary wildlife can be seen on each and every one of our cruises. However, in order to give you the best "Mississippi River" experience, we'll visit the unique natural events that occur at certain times throughout the year. This is why we feature "Bald Eagle Watching", Lotus & Lily", "Nesting Bald Eagles", "Autumn Wildlife" and other exciting cruises periodically. They're still our fantastic Wildlife Cruise, but with a different spotlight angle!

"Wildlife Cruise"

Spend an afternoon on America's River with our signature 1 1/2-hr backwater cruise designed specifically for nature lovers and sightseers. Explore a variety of wetland habitats including open water, narrow backwater sloughs, and side channels along riverside bluffs and floodplain forests.  Highlights include up close views of Bald Eagle nests, Beaver Lodges, sunning Turtles, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Red Fox, playful River Otters, and much more! This is a fully-narrated cruise with interesting insight from the captain and onboard naturalist. 

"Fall Migration Cruise"

Departing from our Lansing, Iowa port, these spectacular cruises are our last of the year! These migration tours offer an extended first-hand birding experience in key Mississippi River Flyway habitats. Experienced bird-watchers and river naturalists will accompany each cruise and provide interpretation and bird-watching identification and assistance. Visitors will experience amazing close-up views of thousands of elegant tundra swans and hundreds of thousands of a wide variety of ducks plus numerous bald eagles, Canada geese, pelicans, cormorants, and other wildlife. With this being said, the 3-hr venture itself is a gorgeous journey alongside the towering limestone bluffs surrounding the river. Snacks and drinks will be served at no extra charge aboard these season-ending cruises. This is a very popular tour and we do suggest making advance reservations - cruises will be filled on a first come, first served basis. This is a fully-narrated cruise with interesting insight from the captain and onboard naturalists.

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