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Wet 'n Wild

Rockin’ Thunder Jet Boat Rides
begin sixth season

Visitors will notice a new ticket booth
at Madison riverfront


(July 2018) – You don’t have to get wet to try Rockin’ Thunder boat rides. Scenic cruises, lunch and dinner cruises, and even a two-day overnight cruise are now available.
Rockin’ Thunder jet boat rides provide the most unique entertainment on the Ohio River, using New Zealand style jet boats for thrilling, “get wet” rides and a new larger boat for scenic cruises. Its summer season opened in June.
The original option was the “Thrill Ride.” Passengers receive a bright yellow life vest, step aboard the jet boat and buckle in for the 30-minute thrill ride of spins, sideway slides and fishtails, guaranteed to make everyone laugh while getting wet. This ride covers about 15 total miles in a round-trip loop from Madison’s Ohio River dock. Children must be at least 40 inches tall to participate.

Photo courtesy of Steve Allen

David Byler in May sets the new Rockin’ Thunder Jet Boat Rides ticket office in place by the Madison boat ramp.

Thrill rides are scheduled at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., six days a week (excluding Tuesdays). The boat can accommodate a maximum of 12 passengers. Both individual and group reservations are welcome. 
Rockin’ Thunder is the happy outcome of the personal experiences of Master Capt. Paul Nicholson and Master Capt. Janet Harding, coupled with a serendipitous trip through Madison. Nicholson has been driving jet boats since age 15. He grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Harding grew up boating and waterskiing on the lakes and rivers in Indiana and Illinois. They worked together at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Coincidentally, to get to Antarctica, they traveled through New Zealand, where they enjoyed the local jet boats. Fast forward to their 2010 visit to Madison, where it was love at first sight!
They knew this is where they wanted to live. They had the vision to bring their love of boating to the Ohio River in a completely new way. In spite of skeptics who told them their idea would never work in Madison, they “took the plunge” and opened Rockin’ Thunder in 2013. The 2018 season will be the sixth year for Rockin’ Thunder, a business that becomes more successful and popular each year.
Andrew Forrester, Madison’s Community Relations Manager, recognized their success as “a credit to their vision, hard work and being able to adapt to find their niche.”

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

The Rockin’ Thunder crew is pictured at the new ticket office on the Madison, Ind., riverfront. They are Capt. Will Martin, Crew Chief Steve Allen, Master Capt. Janet Harding and Master Capt. Paul Nicholson. Nicholson, Harding and Crew Chief Steve Allen designed the new ticket booth to resemble a pilot house. They also worked together to build the booth.

That niche meant expanding from thrill rides to include scenic river cruises for sightseeing and dining at river side restaurants. As the demand for cruises increased, Nicholson and Harding researched other types of jet boats. In 2017, they launched their new 35-foot, twin-diesel powered jet boat, custom built in the state of Washington. It offers a comfortable ride for up to 22 passengers, with the latest safety and navigation equipment.
At 5 p.m., six days a week (excluding Tuesdays), visitors can board the boat for a 40-mile scenic river cruise, lasting about 1.5 hours. The jet boat tour takes passengers up the Ohio River to Carrollton, Ky., and then down the Kentucky River to Lock 1. The captain provides detailed historical stories and information about the natural habitats for wildlife. The remote locations provide the opportunity to spot a bald eagle, bobcat or other birds and animals.
Each Wednesday, the 11 a.m. departure is a Luncheon Excursion that takes passengers down the Ohio River to the Captain’s Quarters Restaurant in Louisville, Ky., for lunch and a scenic return trip to Madison. The 4.5-hour trip covers a total of 75 miles. This cruise sells out quickly. Reservations are currently being accepted for the end of July.
The Sunday Dinner Adventure departs Madison at 11 a.m. for an eight-hour cruise that includes a catered dinner at Blue Wing Landing Inn, a former peach plantation near Lock 2 on the Kentucky River. The return trip to Madison offers passengers a view of colorful panoramas as the light and shadows ripple with the movement of the water.
The newest cruise is a two-day, 155-mile round trip Kentucky River Adventure from Madison to Frankfort, Ky.
This cruise is now possible due to recent renovations on the first four locks of the river. These locks were originally constructed by hand in the 1800s by German immigrants. Cumulative wear and damage over the years resulted in closure of this section of the river for 100 years. Recent renovations were completed in 2017, re-opening this pristine section of the Kentucky River. Passengers are treated to views of the untouched wilderness along the riverbanks, with birds and wildlife in natural habitats. Discounted overnight reservations are available at the beautiful Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort. Passengers can tour the historic district, the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery and local boutique shopping district.
The new custom-constructed Pacific Northwest-style touring boat, provides protection from sun and rain. Scenic and rest stops along the way break the trip into comfortable segments. This new cruise has been so popular that reservations are already being booked for 2019 by visitors from all over the United States and as far away as New Zealand. Rockin’ Thunder boats are also available for private parties, excursions, corporate events and even weddings.   
Each cruise, each day is subject to stringent weather precautions. Storms, lightning, and even a severe weather forecast, will result in cancellation of any cruise. Passengers are always given the option to rebook or receive a full refund. There are no exceptions to the safety and weather precautions.

• Reservations can be made online at www.rockinthunder.com or by calling (812) 701-1155.

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