Renting a houseboat and enjoying a relaxing get-away along the Mississippi River is a great way to do something different for your next vacation. There are a lot of options available when it comes to sailing along the Mississippi. The following provides information about the best locations to rent houseboats on the Mississippi River, the type of boats available, the costs involved, and what exactly to expect during a houseboat trip.
Where to Rent Houseboats
There are dozens of ports along the Mississippi River to either rent houseboats or stop along the way if you’re on one. The Mississippi flows along ten states, starting with Minnesota and weaving south until it comes around Louisiana where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. There are many cities and ports along the Mississippi that offer houseboat rentals. A few include Hastings, Minnesota, Onalaska and Alma, Wisconsin, and Lansing, Iowa. It is possible to start a trip in Chicago. Starting on the Illinois River, travelers can then head into the Mississippi. No previous experience navigating a houseboat is required. All reputable companies will provide adequate training. For safety reasons most companies require renters to dock the boat at night. Most companies will allow a renter to tow a ski boat or a personal watercraft along.
What Boats are Available
There are a wide range of sizes and styles of houseboats to choose from. Most have built-in generators, 1 or 2 engines, 190 gallon fuel tank, and a fresh water tank with room for 200 gallons of water. The average houseboat has 4 bedrooms, 1 or 2 bathrooms, and sleeps 6 to 10 guests. A few are wheelchair accessible but many are not. Many house boats allow guests to bring along their pets. Pets will likely need to be registered ahead of time. Some of the larger, luxury boats will sleep 14, carry up to 500 gallons of fresh water, provide a hot tub, and have a rooftop wet bar. Some of the luxury boats don’t allow for pets.
How Much Houseboats Will Cost
High season is usually considered to be July and August, and rentals will be the most expensive during this time. During peak season rentals can average between $2,000 and $4,000 for a week. A weekend rental may cost approximately $1,500 to $2,500. Mid season is usually considered earlier in the summer. Some larger luxury boats may cost between $6,000 and $7,000 for a week. Most rentals don’t include gas. The average cost for an entire week on a houseboat is around $3,000. This would include the rental, fuel, and any extra insurance. Remember to add the cost of gasoline and food when budgeting the trip.
What to Expect on Your Trip
The first thing about traveling along the Mississippi to understand is that the river has technically been divided into two sections, the Upper Mississippi River and the Lower Mississippi. The Upper Mississippi is considered any part of the river north of Cairo, Illinois. South of Cairo is the lower Mississippi. While sailing the Lower Mississippi may conjure up images of Huckleberry Finn and romantically cruising into New Orleans on a moonlit night, there aren’t that many harbors and marinas along the lower half to get fuel or supplies, or dock the boat for the evening. This is why most places to rent houseboats and places to stop during the trip are located along the Upper Mississippi in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Where the Missouri River converges with the Mississippi there may be quite a bit of turbulence. Within a few miles of this area is the Chain of Rocks Canal. This is a 12 mile canal that bypasses the river due to shallow water, large rocks, and general turbulence. Anyone navigating a houseboat should be sure not to miss this canal. There are lots of activities to enjoy while staying on the houseboat. Relaxing and enjoying the scenery are the most obvious. Fishing, skiing, and tubing are fun ways to stay active. Along the Upper Mississippi there are several port cities that offer dining, shopping and outdoor areas to explore. There are even museums and historic sites to visit along the way.
When travelers rent a houseboat and take a trip along the Mississippi River the options are almost endless. What activities to take part in and how much adventure to take on is entirely up to the travelers.