Learning About Pittsburgh’s History with Rivers of Steel’s PGH 101 Tour

Last Updated on by Jeremy

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The Rivers of Steel maintains a number of historical sites in southwestern Pennsylvania, with one of the most notable being the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin/Swissvale (just southeast of the city).

In 2018 the nonprofit launched a new riverboat tour that takes place on Pittsburgh's three rivers. This one takes patrons on a journey through Pittsburgh's history, laying out where we've come from as a city and how the citizens of the past have paved the way to our prosperous future.

As this tour is one of the most in-depth lessons you'll get on all things Pittsburgh, it is aptly named like a university course- PGH 101: An Intro to Innovation. But instead of being set in a classroom, this one using the views of the city from the rivers to really bring the region's history to life.

We were fortunate enough to attend a media event for the launching of this tour in summer 2018, and share the experience in this one!

Pittsburgh's History via the Rivers of Steel

Rivers of Steel Explorer Riverboat

One complaint we've had about another popular riverboat tour in Pittsburgh is that they got many of their facts about the city wrong. With PGH101 by Rivers of Steel, we're happy to report that they not only got their facts right (as the result of years of research, verifying, and re-verifying), but they even dive down into a number of obscure city topics that are sure to impress both resident and visitor alike.

Whether you want to learn more about the steel strikes of the early 1900s, or why Pittsburgh has so many staircases, or the story behind the Hot Metal Bridge, this tour does a fantastic job about giving the right details that may get overlooked elsewhere.

This all comes together for an informative tour worthy of the PGH 101 moniker, and instead of offering this up in a standard classroom the tour uses the backdrop of Pittsburgh to bring it all together before your eyes.

Rivers of Steel Explorer Riverboat

The Explorer itself is of note as it was retrofitted completely by Rivers of Steel to make it one of the first boats in the country designed to LEED standards. This is no small feat as the ship also accommodates well over 70 passengers, has several decks, and is even wheelchair accessible with an elevator!

In fact, had we not known any better we wouldn't have guessed that the ship was designed to such a high standard, and that is truly saying something in its craftsmanship.

Rivers of Steel PGH101 Tour

We think the size of the boat also helps for the style of river cruise as we were able to get up, walk around, and enjoy different vantage points depending on the direction we were heading and which river we were on- perfect for photographers like us.

This is definitely not a boat tour to sit back on! (Although admittedly, you can do that as well if you like!)

The Best Value Boat Tour in Pittsburgh

Rivers of Steel PGH101 Tour

The knowledge that the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation brings to this river tour should be enough to entice everyone to make a reservation right away, but if this is not enough we need to take a step back and speak on the value- this is always a big question when it comes to river tours in Pittsburgh.

Two things jumped out at us right away after taking this tour that we have to share.

Pittsburgh from the Rivers of Steel Riverboat Tour

First, it is 30 minutes longer than all other sightseeing boat tours in the city and goes further down all three rivers as a result. Second, it is roughly the same price as other similar tours, meaning that it is a great value for those who want to get out on the water!

We know that there are limited options for getting out onto the city's rivers to enjoy the views of Pittsburgh (although that is changing with each passing year), and every time we are out on the water we find ourselves wishing we could stay out just a little bit longer. With the Rivers of Steel PGH 101 tour you'll get just that, and the 90 minute itinerary offers a perfect loop to satisfy our urges.

Pittsburgh from the Rivers of Steel Riverboat Tour

So whether you simply want to get out on the river to enjoy the views or want to dive down into Pittsburgh's rich history with a team that truly knows their stuff, a tour on the Explorer riverboat for the PGH 101 cruise is going to be a must for all moving forward.

PNC Park from the Rivers of Steel Riverboat Tour

(And who knows, maybe you'll see us on it snapping photos of the city one day, too!)

The Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation offers river tours on the Explorer seasonally and docks behind the Science Center on the North Side. To book a tour for PGH 101, please click here. A portion of the proceeds go to STEM programs on the boat for students as well (check the website for more information). We were invited out for a media event for an early sharing of the ship for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.

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