With New Vessel and New Operator, Missouri Duck Boat Rides Resume

Courtesy Branson Duck Tours

Published Jan 10, 2021 11:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

Three years after the disastrous "duck boat" sinking that claimed the lives of 17 people on Missouri's Table Rock Lake, a new company plans to restart amphibious boat tours with a similar itinerary. 

The previous operator, Ride The Ducks Branson, is no longer in business, and several of its employees were indicted on federal charges for misconduct and neglect in connection with the sinking. (The charges were dismissed in December due to a question of federal jurisdiction.) 

The newly-founded Branson Duck Tours is stepping into the niche with a purpose-built vessel known as the Hydra-Terra. The previous operator's vessels were modified WWII-era amphibious vehicles with a questionable safety record, and they proved susceptible to flooding and sinking in rough conditions. The newly-built, 40-passenger Hydra-Terra has foam-filled compartments to give it enough reserve buoyancy to stay afloat when fully flooded, according to the manufacturer. 

"Branson Duck Tours is a brand new company, owned and operated by completely different leadership than previous duck tours in Branson. In addition to more rigorous safety procedures, we will also be using newer, safer equipment to provide our tours," the firm announced in a social media post. "The design has proven to be unsinkable by the U.S. Coast Guard. During Coast Guard testing, the drain plugs were removed from a Hydra-Terra and the engine room was fully flooded. The Hydra-Terra continued to float safely without any water entering the passenger compartment."

The same model is currently in operation with San Diego's SEAL Tours, and the manufacturer - CAMI LLC - says that it is also in use by tour operators in Boston, Dublin and Belfast. 

CAMI LLC also offers a $1.2 million amphibious luxury motor home for those with a desire to take their own tour on the road.