Being a River Walk Tour Guide

Being a River Walk Tour Guide
Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden

NAME: Elizabeth Taylor |  AGE: 46 HOME: San Antonio |  QUALIFICATIONS: Has worked as a boat driver for Rio San Antonio Cruises since March 2011 / Earned a degree in management from Our Lady of the Lake University / Is an avid student of San Antonio history and culture

● For years my friends and I had a tradition during the holidays of going down to the River Walk and riding the boats to see the lights. I always thought it would be fun to drive a boat, but I told myself, “You can’t do that. You’ve got this responsibility and this and that to take care of.” But finally I decided, “Why on earth not?”

● Rio San Antonio has a great training program, and all of the employees go through a certification process before we actually take passengers out on the river. Learning to drive the boats proved to be more of a challenge than I had expected. Anyone who has ever tried to parallel park a pontoon boat will know what I’m talking about.

● At the start of each tour, I go over the safety procedures on our boats. I want everyone to know that we have life jackets on board, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never had an incident
in which we’ve had to use them. 

● As someone who has fallen in the river twice, I know from experience that you don’t have to wait for a life jacket. The water is only three feet deep, after all, so you just stand up and save yourself. But for a while, my nickname was Bubbles.

● The tours cover two and a half miles, and they last about 45 minutes. While in training, our boat drivers learn about 39 points of interest to show to our passengers. Of course, the guides add their own flair over time, so if you take ten different boats, you will probably hear ten different tours.

● My favorite part of the ride is seeing the Tower Life Building, which was built in the late twenties in the neo-Gothic style. I could do a half-hour tour on it alone. It’s an octagonal building with these amazing gargoyles on each corner, and the rain pours out of their mouths and into a gutter below. Between the first and second floors, there are these fascinating stone faces called grotesques that were designed to ward off evil spirits. If I have people in my age group on the tour, I’ll also point out that the movie Cloak and Dagger , starring Henry Thomas, was shot there in the mid-eighties.

● I don’t have any desire to join the Navy or captain a shrimp boat. Now, there are other drivers who want to join the Coast Guard, and a couple of them have, but my favorite part of the job is interacting with the people. It doesn’t hurt that the River Walk is the prettiest office I’ve ever had.

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