Fort Worth

Boat tours in Fort Worth? This company wants to show you the Trinity River

Downtown Fort Worth glows with the summer sunset. It’s a sweeping cityscape view from the Cultural District, Trinity Park or the Fourth Street bridge.

But what about from a boat in the Trinity River? While you’re eating dinner?

That’s the promise of Panther Island Boat Tours, which hopes to bring river tours to the Trinity. The Waco-based company received permission Tuesday from the Tarrant Regional Water District to operate a 30-foot tour boat in the river near downtown. Ryan Helm, captain and owner, said he plans to have his pontoon boat in the water by mid-July with three types of tours.

The boat can carry up to 20 during hour-long family and nighttime tours and about 16 for a two-hour sunset dinner cruise. Helm said he anticipates two to three tours on the weekdays and as many as 10 on the weekends.

The tours will leave from a dock near Panther Island Pavilion and head northwest down the West Fork to near White Settlement. It’ll will return to downtown and take a jaunt down the Clear Fork to the first Trinity Park dam. This is the longest and deepest portion of the river as it flows through Fort Worth, providing enough room for a pontoon boat to navigate.

The goal is to promote a connection to the river and increase activity on the waterfront, said Shanna Cate, the water district’s director of programming and development. The tour will offer historical context about Fort Worth’s settlement on the river as well as information about the water district and river life.

“We’ll almost be like an ambassador to the river,” Helm said.

Dinner is optional on the sunset cruise and will be catered by a restaurant, Helm said. Alcohol is allowed, but it’s BYOB.

Helm’s Waco River Safari tours have shuttled sightseers down the Brazos River for about two years. He said activities on the river, including Panther Island Pavilion concerts, and the river’s proximity to downtown attracted him to Fort Worth.

The pontoon boat has twin engines and is certified by the U.S. Coast Guard for four-foot waves, he said. Tours won’t run when the Trinity is in a flood stage.

The three year deal comes with minimal cost to the water district — the contract simply allows the boat will use an existing dock at Panther Island Pavilion

Three Trinity River Tours have varying prices, and a the boat can be reserved for events and parties.

  • 1 Hour Family Tour: $15 adult, $9 children, $3 toddlers
  • 2 Hour Sunset Dinner Tour: $39 plus cost of optional meal
  • 1 Hour Night Tour: $15 adult, $9 children
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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or
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