CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Spring river flooding has now stretched into summertime and is starting to impact a popular tourist attraction that stops in Heartland: riverboat cruises.
Staff with the visitors bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO said the riverboat plans to dock 13 times this year, but the first two in early July are at risk of being canceled due to high water and the riverfront not being open.
“Two out of thirteen visits isn’t bad. It could be four or five just as easy. Hopefully not but it does make a big impact,” said Jerry Ford who volunteers at Cape River Heritage Museum.
The nonprofit museum runs on donations and is one of the main stops in town for riverboat tourists.
Ford said the hundreds of people on board spend a good chunk of change around downtown.
“The people that come in on the riverboats are very important because first of all, it spreads the word about Cape Girardeau,” Ford said. “We miss it because it gives us a little extra income. I suspect the Downtown merchants really miss it because you put two or three hundred people walking downtown and doing all of these things. It helps their bottom line.”
But the large paddle boats can only dock in Cape Girardeau if the riverfront is open.
The flood gates downtown have been closed for more than 100 days and are expected to stay that way for at least several more weeks.
Still, the Director of sales for Visit Cape, Alyssa Phares, said the city is still a destination for these tours.
“We can’t control the weather and we can’t control the river, but we can control the experience that our guests have when they are able to dock here in Cape Girardeau, and I think that is one of the primary reasons the riverboats keep coming back to Cape,” Phares said.
In fact, Phares said boats already plan to dock more than 20 times next season.
While the river can bring devastating flood waters, Ford said it also brings opportunities to create a memorable experience.
“The river is a magnet. It pulls people in and my Dixieland band welcomes all of the boats," Ford said. "People on those boats they’re literally from all over the world, and they come for one reason: to be on the Mississippi River.”
Both the Broadway and the Themis street flood gates in downtown Cape cannot open until the Mississippi River falls below 35 feet on the flood gauge.
With the current forecast that would be on July 8, but crews with the city parks department would need a few days to clean out the mud and debris around the riverfront before it is open to the public.