You won’t find the city’s newest taxi service on an app or even on land. Try looking on the Mississippi River.
The Minneapolis Water Taxi, a single six-person boat that exclusively operates in Northeast Minneapolis, is the taxi service for those who want the scenic route, if they want to get anywhere at all. It’s the first official year the solar-powered vessel will take landlubbers from Boom Island Park around the north end of the river or the dock at the Sample Room bar and restaurant.
At the helm are captains Cory Parkos and Greg Hoseth, two friends who are passionate about the Mississippi and sharing its beauty.
“Basically, it’s a way to get people out on the river, which in Minneapolis is very underutilized,” Parkos said steering the taxi, a Duffy electric boat, through the back channel around Nicollet Island.
The section of the river north of the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam has been largely unused since the upper lock closed in 2015. Parkos said there are few opportunities other than Mississippi River Paddle Share program to explore the river where industrial barges and contaminated runoff once kept people out of the water.
“One of the things I try to teach people is stewardship. When I’m out here I try to pick up a piece of garbage out of the river and keep the river clean. It’s come a long way in the past 30, 40 years when there was a lot more industry and pollution,” he said.
This is where the taxi comes in. Despite its name, the Minneapolis Water Taxi is more of a cruise service where Parkos or Hoseth take up to six people around the river, from the falls on the south end — don’t worry, Parkos said, they don’t get too close — to the well-known great blue heron rookery and the Lowry Avenue Bridge on the north end. Riders typically schedule a one-hour cruise that begins at the docks at Boom Island Park, 724 Sibley St. NE, and can either come back to the park or end at the Sample Room upstream. Parkos said they’re working to get stops added to the route.
“Eventually we want to get more docks and the idea is that one person can jump on and off in the future,” he said.
The roughly hour-long trips cost $60, or $10 per passenger at full capacity. Smaller groups can ride together.
The experience is up for the passengers to decide. Guests can bring any food or drinks, including alcohol, onto the boat. Parkos said they’ve had families, groups celebrating bachelorette parties and even a couple that wanted a romantic evening. They took the cruise and had a horse and carriage meet them at the park and bring them to a restaurant.
This year the Minneapolis Water Taxi will operate until the late evening, which means passengers can book rides during events like the Fourth of July and the Aquatennial. Parkos said the Twin Cities River Rats water ski shows will be a big occasion for the taxi this summer.
“The city is pretty in itself, but at nighttime when it lights up, it’s really something. It’s a different perspective being on the water and seeing the city from being on land,” he said.
The cruise is a little wilder than the average taxi. On a recent outing, Parkos spotted a wood duck, a Cormorant, beaver lodges and a great blue heron. Occasionally he said he’ll see foxes, woodchucks and even loons and eagles. The water is seldom choppy, Parkos said, but occasionally waves reach a foot high on windy days.
“For the most part, it’s pretty calm,” he said.
Parkos can serve as a tour guide for interested passengers. The Northeast resident is quick to rattle off landmarks like the war memorial at Sheridan Memorial Park, the newly created back channel at Hall’s Island and 19th century man-made logging islands between the Lowry and Broadway bridges.
Parkos, who said he’s worked as a cake baker, letter carrier and sound engineer over the years, is glad the taxi will be his full-time job over the summer.
“I’ve always loved the water and the river,” he said.
Minneapolis Water Taxi rides can be reserved via email or over the phone. More information is available at mplswatertaxi.com.