By Don Price
Photos by Johanna Huckeba
When we think about great adventures, we tend to think about long treks to distant places. But great adventures are all around us if we take a moment to look for them —like the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.
anyon Lake, a shimmering turquoise reservoir that covers 950 acres, is located approximately 50 miles east of Phoenix. After several twisty-turny miles on the Apache Trail I rounded a sharp corner and caught my first glimpse of gorgeous Canyon Lake—stunning! I’ll never forget the thrill and amazement I felt at my first glimpse.
I wanted to share my love of this lake with a good friend, so for this adventure I asked Gina Schuh to join me. Gina, one of the most energetic and adventurous women I know, replied enthusiastically “let’s do it!” She had been to Canyon Lake, but never on the Dolly Steamboat, so that became our destination—river cruise, here we come!
The Dolly Steamboat operates sightseeing and dinner cruises out of Canyon Lake Marina. We made reservations for the “Scenic Nature Cruise,” which emphasizes the flora and fauna of the region.
Tickets for the nature cruise are $23 for adults (13-59), $21 seniors (60+), $12 children (5-12), and free for toddlers (under 5). Dinner cruises are $64.95 for adults, $36.95 for children (5-12).
Gina and I arrived at the lake well ahead of our noon cruise and waited on the outdoor patio. Although the patio is shaded be sure to pack some water and sunscreen.
Both Gina and I are wheelchair users (Gina a manual chair, me a powerchair), so we were curious about the accessibility of the Dolly cruise. We informed the cruise operators that we needed access and were assured that the Dolly was accessible. For the most part we found that to be true.
The Dolly allows those with functional needs to board first, so Gina and I navigated out to the boat where we were met by our very enthusiastic Captain, Jeff Grimh. He unfolded a ramp onto the boat’s rear deck and asked how he could best assist us in boarding. I asked Capt. Jeff to help push my wheelchair up the rather steep ramp—a request he happily and adeptly complied with (clearly he has done this before.) Gina followed suit and soon we were comfortably seated on the Dolly, rocking among the waves and scanning the surrounding cliffs for Bighorn Sheep and other wildlife.
Lizzie Ann Kauffman, a wheelchair user from Pennsylvania, agreed, “I really enjoyed it. Everyone was very well trained and it was a good experience.”
he Dolly has an air-conditioned main cabin and open-air front, upper and rear decks that can accommodate a maximum of 142 passengers plus 3 crew members. The bathroom on the boat is not wheelchair accessible, nor is the upper deck. Various drinks and snacks are available for sale during the cruise.
Gina and I really enjoyed our time at the lake and both gave the cruise high marks.
Lizzie Ann Kauffman, a wheelchair user from Pennsylvania, agreed, “I really enjoyed it. Everyone was very well trained and it was a good experience.” Lizzie Ann frequently visits Arizona with her family and this is her second time on the Dolly.
Capt. Jeff graciously allowed us a few minutes of his time for an interview.He explained that this is a family-run business that prides itself on customer service.
We are so lucky in Arizona to have this kind of natural beauty all around us. Take my advice and give Canyon Lake and the Dolly Steamboat a try. invite a friend or two to join you—the best adventures are shared. Much thanks to Gina Schuh for making this one trip to remember!
To learn more about the Dolly Steamboat, visit dollysteamboat.com or call (480) 827-9144
Early Intervention Coordinator
Don Price is Ability360’s Early Intervention Coordinator. As a person living with a spinal cord injury–sustained in a diving accident at age 18—Don mentors those with new disabilities by offering information, resources and an empathetic ear. Don lives in Tempe and enjoys fishing, reading, writing, listening to music and spending time with friends. He’s also a proud Sun Devil.