American Countess travelers tour Ottawa, share their excitement

‘There’s a lot of history,’ visitors say of their visit

Ottawa became the home of the American Countess’s maiden voyage Monday morning as river farers took in the sights.

It will head south to Peoria from Ottawa via the Illinois River, carrying its passengers through towns they typically wouldn’t get to visit.

Stephanie Reining, a traveler from Olympia, Wash., is on her sixth trip with the American Queen Steamboat Company. She’s been on the Mississippi River up to Minneapolis, and again down from St. Louis to New Orleans, and another through Tennessee.

“It’s a small group that you have and you can sit with different people and just talk,” Reining said. “It’s a really fun trip and the entertainment is outstanding. I like to hop on and hop off because we go to towns like Ottawa that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”

There’s a bus that travels around every 15 minutes and travelers are given a map so they know where each stop is. Reining said the bus route goes through Ottawa’s historic downtown district and she enjoys seeing all the older homes.

Reining was part of a group touring the Reddick Mansion and was on her way with a friend to the Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage Museum.

“I’m looking forward to the Scouts museum because my friend was involved with the Girl Scouts for a long time,” Reining said. “It’s a small town, too, so I can just meet people and talk. It’s very low key.”

Reining also mentioned traveling along the river is so different because of the perspective: Driving on the road often gives the most boring view of a region, but traveling on the river in a valley makes places more scenic.

Linda and Matthew Dunphy, of Jupiter, Fla., were on their way to see the Illinois and Michigan Canal Tollhouse after leaving Washington Square.

“It’s a smaller ship than we’ve been on before but it’s very nice and a small enough group,” Linda said. “We can see the places we want and take off, go sit back down or even get back on the boat.”

Matthew said they flew from Florida to Chicago on Sunday and went straight to Ottawa from there.

Dr. Paul Morris and his wife Georgia, are on their ninth river cruise away from their home in Pennsylvania and the area’s history is what attracts them the most to Ottawa.

“The Lincoln Tour is what I wanted to see the most,” Paul said. “The Reddick Mansion, too. There’s a lot of history in there. Seeing original furniture and finding out a private organization was able to do a $1.4 million restoration, that’s wonderful.”

Georgia said life cruising on the boat is perfect for retired people; it moves at a leisurely pace and there’s good food. Paul added he gets great conversation and plenty of real, restful sleep.

The American Countess is a 318 feet and 79 foot wide boat built in 2020 that holds 245 passengers, 110 crew members and has 123 cabins.