Think of popular bus tours and several things come to mind, such as the Hollywood tour of the homes of the stars, the New York City tour of Manhattan or the double-decker tour in London.
Sure those tours are popular, but some folks are looking to find something a little closer to home.
A local company, Hometown History Tours, is front and center when it comes to providing comfortable, affordable bus tours highlighting the history of southeast Michigan.
A new tour, recently added to the roster, comes even closer to home.
“Discover Downriver” is a four-hour, narrated bus tour of the areas surrounding the Detroit and Huron rivers.
Karin Risko, a former history teacher, is the director of the company as well as one of the tour narrators. Her lively narration was enjoyed by many on the maiden “Discover Downriver” tour conducted for the first time last month. The first tour didn’t make as many stops in Wyandotte and Trenton as she would have liked, so she restructured the route to spend more time in those two communities.
The industrial heritage of Wyandotte will be discussed, along with the history of the , and BASF.
Downtown Trenton will be toured through, including and the former McLouth Steel.
“I've long believed we've not properly acknowledged the importance of our history in southeast Michigan including Downriver,” Risko said. “Our region has played an important role in shaping our nation's history.”
Risko said the Downriver tour is made possible due to a grant from Downriver Linked Greenways and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.
“I was able to develop a tour that showcases not only our interesting history, but our abundant natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities as well,” Risko explained.
The tour highlights the history and the greenways of the two rivers and includes a bus route, which brings visitors to historical landmarks and landscape vistas in Brownstown, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile, Trenton, and Wyandotte. Visits to the Lake Erie Metropark museum and ride through Pointe Mouillee State Game Area also are included in the tour.
"I grew up in Wyandotte and learned some things today that I never knew before," said Tom Wright, a Wyandotte native and 1973 graduate of who went on the first Downriver tour last month. "It really is fascinating."
Risko said the new tour should attract people living locally and beyond.
“While I know local folks will enjoy these tours, our Native American, French, British and American pioneer, military, bootlegging and industrial heritage are interesting enough to draw visitors from other areas as well,” Risko said.
The Detroit River played a pivotal role in this region’s settlement and growth. For years, industry dominated the riverfront and, like other populated areas, waterways were the keys to the growth. Now, many of the natural areas have been reclaimed by their communities and Risko’s tour highlights these changes.
“The Downriver tour exposes tourists to the natural landscape and a reclaimed riverfront,” Risko said. “Passengers will encounter wildlife refuges that serve as home to endangered mammals, fish, birds and plants native to the area.”
Risko said one of the more exciting aspects of taking the Discover Downriver tour in the fall is the possibility of viewing numerous types of raptors, such as bald eagles or hawks. Southeast Michigan is one of the premier spots in North America to witness their seasonal migrations.
“These tours are great afternoon activities for church and community groups including historical societies, chambers of commerce and business associations,” Risko said.
The next “Discover Downriver” tour will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The bus departs from Huroc Park in Flat Rock. The cost is $20 for adults and $15 for children. There's a $3 discount if purchased in advance online. In addition to the scheduled public tours, Hometown History Tours offers the Discover Downriver itinerary for private tours. Other tours include “Discover Monroe” and “Discover Detroit.” For more information visit Hometown History Tours' website.