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New jetboat company challenging Whirlpool Rapids

NIAGARA FALLS – The turbulent waters of the Niagara River’s Whirlpool Rapids are seen as a dead zone for boaters.

If something goes in, it may never come out in one piece.

But that doesn’t bother Chris Bohrenkamp.

On Saturday, the Idaho boat builder successfully navigated a 26-foot-long jetboat up the Class 6 rapids — considered “unrunable” by any craft according to the International Scale of River Difficulty — from Youngstown, N.Y., to the base of the Horseshoe Falls.

And his business partner, Mike Fox, wants everyone to have the opportunity to experience it.

Fox and Bohrenkamp came up with the idea of Niagara Jet Adventures together in February with the hopes of one day offering trips up the powerful rapids to people.

“It will be a new way to see the rapids,” said Fox, owner of Fox Boyz Marina in Youngstown. “These boats are designed to take on the water.”

Fox said he plans on taking groups of thrill seekers up the rapids and would like to be operational by the end of this summer.

Bohrenkamp, however, isn’t on board with the idea just yet.

“At this point I have no desire to run trips above the whirlpool,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time, a lot of man hours and training for pilots to be able to do that.”

Niagara Jet Adventures would compete with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours who operate out of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lewiston.

Bohrenkamp said their trip would differ from their competitors as it would be able to get “a bit more extreme” and enter portions of the rapids near the whirlpool

John Kinney, president of Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, said he welcomes competition on the river and hopes they “adhere to the same rigorous safety protocols and regulatory approvals that we follow.”

“It must be noted that one trip up the river is not a true gauge of a company’s capabilities or success,” he said.

Neither Fox or Bohrenkamp have been in contact with Kinney.

Bohrenkamp’s company, Bohnenkamp Whitewater Customs, will be building the 33-foot long, 1,500-horsepower custom boats. At a price tag of more than $500,000 each, the boats will be certified by the United States Coast Guard to carry 33 people.

Bohrenkamp brought a smaller, twin-engine powered boat to do the test run Saturday morning.

He scouted the river conditions for two days before, he said.

“The energy in the water down there is unexplainable. The rollers in that thing are off the hook. It was the most epic trip I’ve ever done,” he said of the four-minute trip. “We never had any close calls or mishaps and the boats handled it with ease.”

by Matt Day

Source: Niagara Falls Review