Yuma River Tours has been owned and operated by the Knowlton Family since 1987, but their experience on the lower Colorado River can be traced back to the 1940's. It was during the '40's that Cecil and Ruth Knowlton began boating and exploring the lower Colorado River, eventually becoming permanent residents of Martinez Lake in 1957. Their son Smokey, and Smokey's sons, Randy and Ron, grew up on this part of the river.
The Knowlton family has an impressive boating history. In 1977, the family completed a 1450-mile journey on the Colorado River from its headwaters in Colorado State, through the Grand Canyon, and finally to its mouth near the Sea of Cortez. This unprecedented trip was documented in the book "River Love". Shortly after this, Smokey circumnavigated the United States in an outboard-powered 18-foot fiberglass boat. Family members joined him on various legs of this unbelievable journey. They first went from Mexico to Alaska and returned to Long Beach. They headed south along the Coast of Mexico and across it to the Gulf of Mexico. Following the Intercoastal Waterway to Florida, they took a short diversion to the Bahamas and back. At New York City, they sailed up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal, sailing west through the Great Lakes to Chicago where they entered the Illinois River system for the trip to the Mississippi River. Following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, they then went up the Missouri River to the Continental Divide. Crossing it on a makeshift trailer, they entered the Salmon River over to the Snake River. From the Snake River they entered the Columbia for the trip to the Pacific Ocean. Once again they traversed the difficult coastal water to Long Beach and the end of a great adventure. With an obvious love for boating and history, it was a natural progression to start a business that included both of these things.
The Knowltons started running Yuma River Tours in 1987. The narration on the tour was developed from a variety of sources. Many years of library research as well as personal interviews with "old timer" families such as the Davidsons, Fergusons, Fishers, Mendivils, Powers, Townsends, etc., have gone into the presentation. Yuma River Tours' narration on the history of the river predates the arrival of the Spanish explorers in 1540 and takes our passengers into the present happenings on the river today. Smokey has worked with the Quechan Indian Tribe in efforts to preserve the Tribe's rich history with the river. Boma Johnson, Bureau of Land Management Archaeologist, helped provide information about the legends regarding the ancient Indian petroglyph sites that are seen on the tour. Yuma River Tours shares all of its findings with the Yuma Historical Society in an effort to promote the history of the area. Promotional tapes for the Chamber of Commerce and also scenes for the Yuma Crossing movie have been filmed from the boats at remote locations along the Colorado River.
Civic responsibility and pride is another hallmark of the Knowlton family. They are founding members of the Yuma Convention and Visitor's Bureau and have been instrumental in developing the riverfront. Ron cut down the first tullies at what eventually became the popular Colorado River Beach Park. Since 1966, the family has been active in the Blythe to Yuma River Cruises. The first Yuma to Blythe Reverse River Cruise was held in 1989. This event occurs each October and its goal is to remove trash from that part of the Colorado River. Since 1987, the "River Queen" tour boat has led the way in the local Christmas Lights Parade of Boats. Yuma River Tours takes part every year in the Handicapped Children's River Cruise on the Colorado and regularly provides discounted tours to school children and other youth groups.
The Knowlton family's love of boating combined with a lifetime spent on the water has created a lifelong dedication to the preservation of the legendary history and beauty of a section of one of America's greatest rivers. It was from this dedication that Yuma River Tours was created. More than a commercial enterprise, Yuma River Tours is a family whose desire is to share their love of the river and the desert southwest with others. Let them be your guides through the historic, wilderness wonderland that makes up Yuma's Colorado River.