Renovated Explorer riverboat takes to the Blackstone with Mystic Aquarium scientists onboard

Renovated Explorer riverboat takes to the Blackstone with Mystic Aquarium scientists onboard

The Explorer riverboat plies the Blackstone River, offering historical and environmental lessons for students and the general public.

PAWTUCKET – Extensive renovations to the 24-year-old riverboat Explorer prompted a rechristening earlier this month that was attended by more than 60 4th-graders from the Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School along with representatives of Mystic Aquarium.

The public can now get a look at the renovated riverboat, as Sunday tours of the Blackstone River, guided by Mystic Aquarium educators, have begun for the season.

Several changes were made to the Explorer this winter and spring to improve the appearance, efficiency, and safety of the Blackstone River’s only tour boat, according to the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. These include an update to high-efficiency outboard motors; new bimini roof design and cover; refreshed color scheme, logo design, paint, and interior side panels; a resurfacing and sealing of the benches; non-skid flooring added to the ramp and deck; and a full resealing of the hull.

Renovations of the Explorer were made possible thanks to donations from the June Rockwell Levy Foundation, The Valley Breeze, Dean Warehouse Service, and the many other contributors to the Blackstone Valley Heritage Environmental Trust Fund.

“The Explorer has brought more than 350,000 on board to learn and discover the richness of Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley,” said Blackstone Valley Tourism Council President Bob Billington. “These important renovations ensure a top-quality experience for generations to come.”

Along with these changes comes a new, heightened partnership between Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and Mystic Aquarium. Aquarium educator scientists lead the Explorer’s long-running RiverClassroom educational program – an experiential learning program targeted to local schools and youth groups.

Through this unique outdoor classroom setting, Mystic Aquarium and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council will engage schoolchildren and adults in the natural, cultural and historical aspects of the Blackstone Valley. Local schools and groups are encouraged to reach out to the tourism council directly to book a RiverClassroom experience.

Aboard the recently restored Explorer riverboat, passengers will discover river wildlife and habitat diversity. On the 45-minute tour, Mystic Aquarium educators and scientists provide education on watershed ecology, water quality sustainable practices and pollution solutions.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to partner with Mystic Aquarium on this program,” said Billington. “Not only for the breadth of knowledge that their educational and research staff will provide to our passengers but also for the cross-promotional opportunities that this partnership provides.”

While the overall goal of the RiverClassroom program is to engage schools as they expand their STEM education – the program meets Rhode Island curriculum standards – both Mystic Aquarium and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council hope to impact individual students as well. The program aims to help students understand the effect of human activity on rivers and waterways, gain an increased awareness and appreciation of river ecology and recognize the Blackstone River as a natural resource.

“We are incredibly proud of this cooperative effort and the credibility that our staff can add to this important educational program,” said Mystic Aquarium President and CEO Stephen M. Coan. “This partnership is the epitome of our strategic plan, and it speaks directly to our mission to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through education, conservation and research.”

Mystic Aquarium educators will also be guiding the Explorer’s public tours on Sundays, from May 15 through Oct. 30, at four different locations around the Blackstone Valley.

River tours highlighting the nature, heritage, and culture of the Blackstone Valley set out on Sundays at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Environmental education tours are on the third Saturday of each month at 1 and 2 p.m., which will focus on the science of the Blackstone River and provide opportunities to interact with an underwater remotely operated vehicle.

The Explorer will be docked at Central Falls Landing from May 15 to June 26; Oyster House Marina in East Providence from June 27 to July 17; Pawtucket’s Festival Pier from July 18 to Sept. 5; and Cold Spring Park in Woonsocket from Sept. 6 to Oct. 30.

The 45-minute-long public tours cost $12 for adults, $10 for children younger than 12, and $10 for senior citizens over age 62.