The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips: The Riverside Dreamer, Mission

Rolling on the Rio Grande

By Gerald E. McLeod, April 30, 2021, Columns

The Riverside Dreamer takes visitors on a short and unique tour of the international border from the Riverside Club restaurant in Mission.

The section of the Rio Grande above Anzalduas Dam is wide and deep for nearly 50 miles. Tall levees, most of them topped with a rust-colored border fence, cordon off the American side of the river. Houses and recreation areas come right to the water's edge on the Mexican side.

Captain Tommy gently pilots the 55-foot pontoon boat with a roof, restroom, and a bar down one river bank and then up the other bank. Along the way he keeps a lively dialogue going for the hourlong cruise, telling stories and pointing out features along the river.

Upstream from the restaurant's dock stands one of the biggest boondoggles along the river. In 2019, a contractor from North Dakota bragged that he could build the border fence faster and cheaper than the federal government. The resulting three miles of open-ended wall was built in three weeks for around $43.5 million. Unfortunately, it was placed only 35 feet from the river and well within the flood plain. A torrent of lawsuits have followed.

License plates from all over the country fill the parking lot when the cruises run four days a week from November to April. From May to October, the tours run on Friday and Sunday. Reservations are recommended.

The Riverside Dreamer sightseeing boat leaves from Riverside Club 2.5 miles south of Mission. The restaurant's menu is a bit plain, but the waterfront patio is special. The hours and menus change between seasons, so it's best to confirm ahead of time at 956/581-1033 or at

1,548th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.