Originally published in The Caloosa Belle by Danika J. Hooper on March 01, 2020

A plethora of festival-goers boarded the M/V River Queen for some exciting Caloosahatchee River Excursions that were again featured at this year’s Swamp Cabbage Festival thanks to the LaBelle Heritage Museum. The giant, custom-built pontoon boat was piloted by a knowledgeable and entertaining pair, USCG Master Captain [and CWK Ranger] John Cookman, and his wife [CWK Ranger], Kathy Cookman, who own and operate Manatee & Eco River Tours. They have provided exciting and educational eco-adventures along the Caloosahatchee and Orange Rivers for many years.

During at least one cruise, passengers watched as LaBelle’s locally famous 1967 amphicar motored up and down the river, challenging the M/V River Queen to a race, before driving back up onto the bank. On another trip, an old shipwreck was found using the vessel’s underwater detection equipment.

The journeys all included traveling into the old river, observing several oxbows, discussing native and exotic plants and animals along the way, as well as an up-close viewing ancient strata that contained a 5-million-year-old oyster bed.

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