River Ranch Houseboats

Houseboating the Columbia and Snake Rivers

Published online: Aug 02, 2012 Feature Charlie VanLeuven
Viewed 2684 time(s)

When a person thinks of the southeastern part of the state of Washington, houseboats don't usually come to mind, but that could be changing. Burbank, Wash. is uniquely situated where the Snake and Columbia Rivers converge. In 2010, Ben Harris, a resident of Burbank, saw a great opportunity. He started River Ranch Houseboats, a rental company near Lake Sacajawea, with the purpose of expanding the houseboat rental experience in the river system.

He purchased three houseboats from an Arizona fleet and put $70,000 in renovations for each boat to repaint, put in new railings, replace the carpet and put in new appliances. Yet, due to the long renovation process, the 2010 season was shorter than normal.

"It was kind of a struggle in our first season just because we didn't get the boats in the water until about June, but we had a lot of good responses and had some good customers," recalls Harris. "We're ahead of the game this year in booking. We've booked some rentals during the winter and spring, which we didn't do last season. But the customers were all impressed with the boats last year and they gave a lot of great feedback."

Getting out on the water is always a draw, but the Columbia-Snake junction is unique in that it has the warmest water in Washington and a longer boating season than Lake Roosevelt. The water is calm and deep, with almost no current, and there are steelhead runs during the fall. The scenery is relaxing as well.

"You can go up river 40 miles and be among the farms and orchards, which is nice," explains Harris. "And there is also a boat ramp right in town, on the Columbia, where you could park the houseboat and use `big city' amenities. Boaters go to the local hotels, bars, and restaurants."

Harris feels River Ranch has a unique business opportunity in the Tri-Cities area, in that there is a population of 250,000 within a half-hour drive of the marina. The Tri-Cities area features vineyards and championship golf courses. There is also a large fireworks display on July 4, and an annual air show during the summer.

Harris says they are gearing up and trying to add some ski boats to their fleet this season. He also says in the future they hope to diversify their business plan for the company to include a shared ownership program.

"We will add to our fleet and turn some of our boats into fractional ownership boats, where families can actually buy and own equity in a boat," says Harris. "They will own the boat for a week or weekend, and they'd get to use it every year that their time comes around. So, instead of renting from us and our rental fleet, they can own a piece of a boat and use it every year. They can then trade or sell their piece."

The future is looking bright for River Ranch Houseboats, and hopefully their growth will spur even more interest in houseboating in the Pacific Northwest. For more information on River Ranch Houseboats, or to book a rental, visit www.riverranchboats.com or call 877-277-6111.

You May Also Be Interested In...

March 23, 2015

Attempting The Great Loop

Have you ever toyed with the possibility of houseboating along the Great Loop?
March 20, 2015

12 Things To Do Differently

Even the most experienced houseboaters can sometimes find themselves in a sticky situation. Here are the top 12 most common mistakes new and experienced boaters should be aware of.
March 13, 2015

How To Pick The Right Houseboat Rental For You

Picking the right houseboat rental can be like selecting the perfect breakfast cereal…
February 27, 2015

Chasing the Dream

Once you’ve decided to become a houseboat owner and done all your research on the overall costs, it’s time to start looking at your financing options.
February 20, 2015

Ten Water Games To Play In Spring

One of the greatest classics of all water games is Marco Polo. When we’re playing in the water and can’t think of a game, it’s pretty much the go-to. But...
February 13, 2015

Houseboating Abroad

Taking a houseboat adventure abroad is one way to indulge in the richness of other cultures.
Follow us on Facebook!   Follow us on Instagram!   Follow us on Pinterest!   Follow us on YouTube!