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Cruising the Detroit River

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The Riverwalk Hotel in Detroit is a National Historic Site

Tourism in Windsor, Ontario is focused along the riverfront, and there is no better way to get acquainted with it than a cruise along the river in the Macassa Bay cruise ship. Leaving from its dock right in front of Caesar's Casino, it offers a variety of cruises including a 2-hour trip along the Detroit River that I enjoyed on a sunny Labour Day Weekend.

In the lead photo, just above the prow of the passing pleasure boat, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Built in 1902 as an industrial research lab for Park-Davis, it is now a hotel. Its Romanesque Revival style is quite striking, but it has a counterpart on the Canadian side.

Holy Rosary Church beside the distilleryHoly Rosary Church beside the distilleryThe cruise begins by heading east in Canadian waters. One of the first sights is a Romanesque-style church near the Hiram Walker distillery, world famous for its whisky. The running commentary aboard the ship tells the tale that the Holy Rosary church (pictured here) has a lurid past. The cross between the steeples can be lit up, and it was used during Prohibition to signal rum runners that the coast was clear to smuggle liquor across the river to Detroit. Al Capone reputedly donated the cross to the church! Its days as a church ended in 2007; it is now an event centre.

After making its turn to the west, the Macassa Bay (built in Hamilton in 1986) gets quite close to Belle Isle, the largest city-owned park in the U.S. Several sites are clearly visible including a very large fountain, 510 feet in diameter with a spray that can reach 125 feet. It was completed in 1925, when times were good, before the Depression. Also visible is the Coast Guard station, a maritime musuem, the old dance hall (called a casino), and the Carillon clock (pictured here). It is an 85-foot tower in neo-Gothic style, opened in 1940. The layout of Belle Isle was designed by Frederick Olmsted, whose most famous creation is New York City's Central Park.

The Carillon Clock in Belle IsleThe Carillon Clock in Belle IsleThe cruise offers a superb close-up view of downtown Detroit before passing under the Ambassador Bridge, where it turns back west for a scenic look at the sculptures along Windsor's Riverwalk. These will be familiar to anyone in Windsor, but seeing them from the river side offers a whole new perspective of this delightful outdoor sculpture garden.

Visitors on the cruise can choose to stay inside, shielded from the elements (weather sun or rain), or be outside on one of 2 decks. Quite a few chairs and tables are provided on both decks for those who prefer to remain seated.


For information and pricing, visit the website:


Photos with this article by C. Cunningham



Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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