History of Lake Itasca Tours
Founded in 1985 by Captain Thomas K. Coborn and Mickey Coborn, Lake Itasca Tours has made over 8,000 Naturalist Narrated boat tours to the Headwaters of the Great Mississippi River.
The first vessel the “Chester Charles”, named after Captain Tom’s Father, was a 1970 40′ tour boat that held 55 passengers. In 1999, it was decided that the time had come to expand the boat business.
Leech Lake was chosen for the expansion. In the fall of 1999, a 65′ x 22′ 40 ton cruise vessel was purchased in Van Buren Arkansas. Because of its height, width and weight, the Coborns faced a very expensive challenge in transporting it to Minnesota. The most practical way was by water. Since the trip would be over 1,500 miles and against a strong current in the lower Mississippi, it was deemed necessary to also purchase a 36′ push boat to assist in pushing the larger vessel.
Captain Chris C. Coborn, Captain Thomas P. Coborn, Captain Kelsey Coborn and their crew set sail down the Arkansas River, through the White River and then headed north up the Mississippi River. The 1,500 mile excursion from Arkansas to Red Wing Minnesota took just over 30 days to complete. The adventure included sleeping in tents on the top deck of the boat and brought them through 42 locks.
Once in Red Wing Minnesota, a large crane was used to lift both the passenger boat and the tug boat out of the water onto heavy haul oversized transports. Two Minnesota Highway patrol units escorted the vessels to Coborn’s Itasca Ranch for reconstruction and refitting.
A complete refit was accomplished in one year. The boat was now ready to go into service on Leech Lake in Walker Bay. A house mover was used to transport the cruise boat to Leech Lake. The cruise boat was first docked on Shingobee Island for 3 years, then in Walker City Park for 3 years.
In 2007, Thomas Coborn moved the boat to Lake Itasca. The 55 passenger “Chester Charles” was then replaced with the 141 passenger “Chester Charles II”.
In the winter of 2008, Thomas K. and Mickey Coborn sold the tour boat business to their son, Captain Chris C. Coborn and his wife Jeanie. Captain Tom will remain working on the boat and the business for the foreseeable future.
Our mission has remained the same since its inception, to entertain and educate our guests about the unique history of the area’s early inhabitants and its natural history.
We are perhaps the only Tour Boat in our State to be able to show our guests both our State Bird, the common Loon, as well as our National Bird, the Bald Eagle on most tours. Many wild life photographers have been aboard to take advantage of this unique opportunity. We invite you to come see Lake Itasca the way Henry Rowe Schoolcraft did when he discovered the source of the Mississippi River on July 13, 1832. We look forward to seeing you on board the “Chester Charles II”.
Don’t Miss the Boat! -Captain Chris C. Coborn