Our Cruise on the W.W. Durant from Raquette Lake Navigation Company

We’ve been on a number of boat cruises but our recent cruise through the gorgeous Raquette Lake is an absolute favorite. We went on the Raquette Lake Navigation Company “Cruise ‘n Dine” special and IT IS AMAZING.

Cruise N Dine Sign

We’ve been wanting to go on a cruise ever since we visited the boat in winter of 2010, when the boat was docked in frozen Raquette Lake and the locals were harvesting ice.

The Raquette Lake Navigation Company is owned and managed by Captain Dean Pohl and his wife (Captain’s Mate), Donna. Dean built the boat himself over 20 years ago, and the couple and their four children have been running cruises on scenic Raquette Lake ever since. I got a chance to sit and chat with Dean and Donna, but more on that later.

Captain Dean and Mate Donna

We had luncheon on the cruise in the heated dining room cabin. The food is spectacular. We feasted on tender pork loin roast, broiled tomatoes with a savory Parmesan topping, bow-tie pasta with vegetables and a Japanese vinaigrette, coffee, tea, lemonade, water, fresh bread with seasoned butter and a gourmet-greens salad with sliced melons and strawberries. A cash bar served drinks, including Rachel’s special Bloody Mary Elixir. Rachel is the daughter of Dean and Donna. I didn’t taste it but the other patrons raved about it. For dessert, there was Maple Bread Pudding with raisins — I almost fainted from pleasure. I don’t know what they did with that bread pudding, but it’s the best I’ve ever had.

The food is prepared by Jim Pohl, the Poh;’s son. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America and is a certified chef. If you go to Raquette Lake, take a cruise just for the food!! It was an outstanding meal.

But the cruise is truly as wonderful as the food. We went on a late September Monday. The air was crisp and cool and the fall foliage is in peak season. The scenery is breathtaking.

Blue Mountain from Boat

Captain Dean takes the boat up one side of Raquette Lake and down the other, interjecting the trip with his own interesting narratives about local history, the development of the Adirondack Park and Raquette lake, and more. I loved it!

Do you know where Raquette Lake got its name? Raquette is French for snowshoe. I’ve heard a number of theories about why it’s named Raquette, but the following story is the one most common and told by the locals. In May 1776, in the heat of the American Revolution here in Upstate New York, British Loyalist Sir John Johnson (son of Sir William Johnson, that famous British-Irish diplomat who negotiated peace with the Indians in the early colonial days) fled from his home in Johnstown, NY (the historic Johnston Hall, still standing) with a number of his American and Indian followers. They were fleeing the encroaching Patriot army to go to through the western New York wilderness to Canada. The group strapped on their raquettes, or snowshoes, to traverse the snowy mountains. When they reached this lake, however, near the South Inlet knoll, the spring thaw had begun. They group ripped off their raquettes and tossed them in a pile before fleeing to the Canadian border. The pile remained there for many years, and the people called the lake Raquette Lake because of it.

Captn Dean

Captain Dean also spoke of William West Durant, for whom his boat is named. WW Durant was the son of a railroad tycoon from New York City, who scarfed up the wild Adirondack forests for as little as 3 cents an acre. The Durants built several luxurious camps for themselves and their rich and famous “Gilded Era” pals, such as the Vanderbilts, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Collis Huntington, and many others.

Durant built this little Catholic Church, St. Williams. The church is in outstanding condition. Imagine going to church by boat!

St Williams Raquette lake

All the while Captain Dean told us such stories, we feasted on the sumptuous food and meandered to the upper deck to see the lovely landscape.

On the WW Durant

After our excursion, I sat with Dean and Donna and we chatted about their business. You don’t often see too many bona-fide “mom and pop” businesses around anymore. The Raquette Lake Navigation Company is a testament to that tenacious entrepreneurial spirit. Dean is a savvy contractor/businessman who has lived in Central New York/the Adirondacks all his life. Donna — once a schoolteacher — is bubbling with incredible energy and manages all the booking and marketing. I’ve met so many energetic, creative New Yorkers, but Dean and Donna really shine with that “we can do it” attitude and knack for hospitality. They made us feel like we were one of their family. As a matter of fact, they make EVERYONE feel like they are family. During the trip, Donna chatted with visitors and even passed out cookies to a senior citizen group traveling the area. Our trip was so relaxing and everyone was friendly.

I made a short video that gives you an idea of the cruise. It’s simply lovely.

Cruises are by reservation only. As expected, the boat’s occupancy is limited so do call ahead and make a reservation. Besides the lovely daytime tours, the Company also hosts a number of specialty cruises, including a Moonlight Cruise (some of the folks we sat next to have gone on this cruise and say it’s an incredible experience), a Champagne Brunch Cruise, a Gilded Era Cruise to local Adirondack historic landmarks and places of interest, the Fall Harvest Dinner Cruise with Wine Pairing, The Snowflake Excursion, a Hymn Sing, and many other seasonal specials. You can also order gift certificates, which make a wonderful gift for a newly-married young couple or anniversary.

Contact Information:
Raquette Lake Navigation Company
Dean and Donna Pohl
254 Antlers Road, Raquette Lake, NY, 13436
Phone: 315-354-5532
Facebook Page:

DEFINITELY check out the cruise. I highly recommend it!

Just so you know, I was given a complimentary cruise in exchange for this review. Please know that all opinions are 100 percent mine and honest. We loved our experience and will definitely go again!

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

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  1. […] home nestled in a secluded area by the lake. The property is owned by the proprietors of the Raquette Lake Navigation Company, Dean and Donna Pohl. They made us feel wonderfully welcome! Donna brought coffee and creamer and […]