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Free boat tours will be provided by the Susquehanna National Heritage Area throughout the summer. Tina Locurto, York Dispatch

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York County residents looking to get their sea legs are in luck — free river boat tours are beginning this weekend that will give locals a chance to explore the Susquehanna River and learn about its history.

Organized by the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, the River Discovery Boat Tours will run at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14.

Tours will continue every weekend throughout the summer.

"Lots of folks never experience the river," said Mark Platts, the president of Susquehanna National Heritage Area. "It's really to create a new way to get people connected to the river."

The 17-mile trip will focus on the Lake Clarke area. Boats will depart from the Zimmerman Center for Heritage, 1706 Long Level Road. 

With maximum boat speeds reaching 20 mph, guests can enjoy the breeze and calm waves at a steady pace. 

Passengers under 12 years old are required to wear life vests at all times. Children under the age of 3 are not permitted. 

Though the boat tours are free, guests are encouraged to reserve spots in advance at www.susquehannaheritage.org/programs/boat-tours.

Guests who do not reserve a spot online will be accepted on a tour on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are limited to up to four people per tour and one tour each day.

Susquehanna National Heritage Area is accepting reservations for tours through Aug. 4. But Platts said depending on how popular the boat rides are, the group might continue tours through Sept. 22. 

The free boat tours were made possible through two grants provided by the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Platts said he hopes the river boat tours will "generate pride" for the local community.

Additionally, he said he thinks the tours will encourage people to stay in the York area for longer periods, which will help drive the local economy. 

The River Discovery Boat Tours is a project that took three years of planning. 

"Hopefully by being on the river people can value it more and be more conscious of protecting it," Platts said.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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