Long-running riverboats return to service on Mississippi River this weekend

ST. LOUIS - Tom Dunn has been counting the days until he could get back out on the mighty Mississippi River.

"We get antsy over the winter time," said Dunn, Director of Operations for Gateway Arch Riverboats. "We do a lot of work on the boats during the winter time but we're glad to get back into operation. And it's fun to see people come down and enjoy the boats. It's a real experience for the people a lot of time for the very first time to be on the Mississippi."

As director of operations for the Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher riverboats, it's Dunn's job to make sure everything is ready for Saturday's opening. He's been a part of this riverfront and these boats for 45 years.

"On the Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer, they've been in St. Louis on the riverfront for 53 years," Dunn said.

"These boats were actually built in anticipation of all the visitors coming to the arch and they would only have time for a short one-hour cruise. So all these years we've been operating these one-hour cruises with National Park Rangers giving the narration. It's a very popular cruise."

They are as much a St. Louis tradition as the Gateway Arch or Cardinals baseball. From Blues cruises to Sunday brunch cruises and even an Easter Sunday cruise, the two diesel-powered boats will be running under the Arch every day between March 3 until the end of November.

"It really is unlike any other monument," Dunn said. "It's really inspiring and you do not get tired of it, that's for sure."