Thomas Edison so loved the Caloosahatchee that he purchased 15 acres and built Seminole Lodge, his winter estate facing the river in 1886. He also built a 1,800 foot long wood pier on the property with entertaining areas and boathouses for his electric launch, the Reliance.
The electric launch purchased in 1904 was a 24 foot long flat-bottom river touring vessel powered by Edison batteries, of course, and charged at a station in his boathouse. It met the need of growing family and visitors and was complete with stylish wicker furniture.
Over the years, the launch would take Edison, his wife Mina and their family, friends and visiting dignitaries on many exploration trips during their long vacations in Southwest Florida.
Thomas Edison’s electric launch, the Reliance, in early 1900s
Today visitors can cruise the Caloosahatchee on a modern flat-bottom vessel, tour Edison & Ford Winter Estates and enjoy lunch at the private Royal Palm Yacht Club with a new package offered by Captiva Cruises.
"The River Cruise is a great way to learn about the history of the Caloosahatchee, River of the Calusa, as well as its ecology and environmental importance today," said Richard Finkel, narrator during the cruise.
Edison officials agree that this short river cruise is a great to learn about the ecology and history of the river that the Edison and Ford families loved, explored and fished.
This new program is available throughout the day each Wednesday and Thursday and other days for prescheduled groups with special reservations. Cruises depart at 11 a.m. and each hour from 1 to 4 p.m. with lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost of the program is $30 for Edison Ford members; $25 for children 12 years and younger; $45 for non-members and $30 for children 12 years and younger. It includes an audio tour of the Edison Ford homes, gardens, lab and museum; buffet lunch at Royal Palm Yacht Club overlooking the estates and river; and the historian-led boat cruise.
In addition to the popular cruises to Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, beach and shelling excursions to Cayo Costa State Park, dolphin wildlife adventure cruises, sunset cruises and night sky astronomy cruises, Captiva Cruises will be adding some new and exciting programs for the summer season.
"That includes a sailing adventure highlighting manatees, a family fishing trip and sea life encounter cruise," added Finkel about the summer lineup.
Additional information and reservations for all of Captiva Cruises tours and programs may be obtained by calling 472-5300. To make reservations for the Caloosahatchee cruise, contact Edison & Ford Winter Estates at 334-7419 or visit edisonfordwinterestates.org.