Where the river meets the Motor City

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published July 12, 2017

 Kevin Mazur, assistant in the Warren Woods Public Schools School Age Child Care Summer Program, points out something along the tour to 6-year-old Brody Stewart during the field trip.

Kevin Mazur, assistant in the Warren Woods Public Schools School Age Child Care Summer Program, points out something along the tour to 6-year-old Brody Stewart during the field trip.

Photo by Deb Jacques

DETROIT/WARREN — On a somewhat cloudy morning on the Detroit River July 6, a group of seagulls gathered to look for food while several feet away, a Canadian police boat made its rounds.

Not far away, swimmers raced each other at the Belle Isle Park beach while the Ambassador Bridge hovered in the distance.

That was among the many sites the Warren Woods Public Schools School Age Child Care Summer Program students saw when they enjoyed a field trip last Thursday as they cruised the Detroit River via Diamond Jack’s River Tours.

During the 90-minute voyage, the students viewed Motown’s past and present from a different angle via the two-story boat, spotting the many landmarks, buildings and marinas that line Detroit. The students also got to see a section of Canada, as the tour included riding along Windsor, Ontario.

With the Detroit skyline serving as the backdrop, the Warren Woods students and staff headed out to sea at about 10 a.m. with a team of six crew members, including Capt. Mike Nicholls.

“I’m a boat nerd. I love the water. I like the lake freighters,” said the retired General Motors Co. employee, who has his captain’s license and planned on calm waters for the tour. “The key is to keep everything routine.”

Diamond Jack’s River Tours offer sightseeing and private charter tours on one of three watercrafts: the Diamond Jack, the Diamond Queen or the Diamond Belle. The Warren Woods camp kids, along with students from Dearborn, cruised the river aboard the Diamond Queen.

Eric Ammon, 19, served as the Diamond Queen engineer last Thursday.

“Everyone is pretty much trained to do everything on the boat,” he said. “I work the engine primarily. I mainly come in every morning, start the engine, start the generator, and I’ll clean up the top (deck.) Every half -hour I go down and check the engine. I make sure all the gauges are moving and nothing is overheating.”

All was in check for the WWPS summer camp tour.

“Everything is running fine,” he said.

This year marks Ammon’s second summer as a crew member.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I love being outside. You can’t ask for a better office.”

Crew members Melinda Walker and Emily Lindbloom, both 19, and David Mann, 24, also were aboard. Laura Moore, 20, served as the trip’s narrator, sharing interesting tidbits and historical facts about the various spots that comprise the sightseeing tour.

“We’re sailing in international waters. On the left side, that is a whole different country,” Moore reminded the guests. “We fly a Canadian flag as a courtesy.”

One of the first spots on the tour was the Chene Park Amphitheatre, which Moore said was built in 1986 and seats 6,000.

“It hosts well-known entertainers throughout the summer months,” she said.

The boat also cruised passed the U.S. Coast Guard facility, the Bristol Bay Boat, the Mt. Elliot Pavilion, Kean’s Marina and more.

Every so often, a boater on the water or people along the shoreline waved to the Warren Woods kids, who waved back. Caesar’s Windsor, Belle Isle Bridge, Hart Plaza, Stroh River Place, the People Mover, the Renaissance Center and the Hiram Walker Distillery could all be viewed from the boat during the trip.

On the latter part of the tour, the kids — some hockey fans — grew excited when they spotted Joe Louis Arena, which Moore described as home “of our 11-time Stanley Cup champions.” She also mentioned the Detroit Red Wings would soon be moving to the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Delaney Meixner, 12, enjoyed her time boating on the Detroit River.

“I like how you get to see parts of Canada, and it was nice to see a lot of the things I didn’t get to see yet,” she said.

It was Meixner’s first time on a vessel as large as the Diamond Queen.

“It’s rocking back and forth. You can feel the waves and stuff,” she said.

For Cayden Jones, 9, an up-close look at the Ambassador Bridge was his favorite part of the tour.

“I like how I get to see the bridge and the nice water,” Jones said.

Sophia Zaliwski, 10,  paid attention to the narrative during the trip.

“I like how you can see all the buildings and how they talk about what has happened,” she said. “All the buildings are really cool.”

She also likes summer camp in general.

“You get to see your friends from school,” she said. “It’s nice to get away from school and have fun.”

The WWPS Summer Camp runs out of Westwood Elementary School. For more information, call (586) 439-4870.

For more information on the Diamond Jack’s River Tours, call (313) 843-9376 or visit www.diamondjack.com.