‘We want to do something outdoorsy’: Riverboat passengers in ranchers’ good hands

Published 8:17 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Once about eight years ago an Ohio tour group came to Natchez and said, “We don’t want to look at houses. … We want to do something outdoorsy.”

Little did Adams County rancher David Carter know that the impromptu hayride tour he created then would come back to him years later.

“It all started in this very room,” Carter said to Kiwanis Club members at The Natchez Grand Hotel on Thursday of how Great River Outdoors began.

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He recalled meeting with the American Queen steamboat company as an Adams County supervisor. He was dressed as an official, wearing his suit and tie to greet the steamboat company CEO and asked him, “What do you plan to do while you’re in Natchez?”

“He’s like, ‘There’s this guy in your town that takes people out and does outdoor stuff,’” Carter said. “Then he mentions cows and the more he talks I thought, that kind of sounds like me. But I had never done anything with the boats. I said, ‘There’s a chance that might be me,’ and he says, ‘No, this guy is like a real cowboy.’”

Don’t be fooled by the suit and tie, Carter is as much a rancher as he is an automobile salesman.

Carter said the steamboat company must’ve learned about the tour he’d given to the Ohio group in 2014.

“We traded numbers and I didn’t hear from him again until about two years later after I started working for Great River Honda,” he said.

Carter had the idea to put the riverboat passengers on ATVs and ride through the woods. The first response he received was that a lot of the passengers were “too old to ride four-wheelers.”

With a little persuasion, he convinced them he could ride safely with older passengers on both regular ATVs and side-by-sides. Carter recalled taking out one man who was 96 years old but full of energy. The senior citizen insisted on riding a regular four-wheeler instead of a side-by-side, which he did.

With the addition of Viking USA, three river cruise companies now dock on Natchez shores. Many of their passengers enjoy tours of historic homes, churches and the city cemetery.

For those who prefer the great outdoors, Carter takes them on adventures with ATVs and teaches them about breaking horses, roping cattle, popping bull whips, throwing tomahawks, shooting bow and arrow and more.

Today, “Riverboats are our bread and butter,” Carter said.

His presentation to Kiwanis Club members included a bullwhip demonstration and club member Frances Cothren was his brave volunteer. She held out a tissue paper while Carter snapped his whip in front of her repeatedly, getting closer and closer until the tissue paper was torn to shreds with one loud “pop!”