All Aboard The Chief Uncas!

Step back in time aboard a historic vessel!

Today visitors to York and Lancaster county can experience the Susquehanna River aboard a historic vessel, built 112 years ago. The Chief Uncas was built in 1912 for Adolphus Busch, co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch brewery company, to enjoy cruises at the family’s summer estate in Cooperstown, NY. The ELCO company who manufactured the Chief Uncas was known for their electric powered wooden vessels and first introduced them to the world at the Columbia Exposition World’s Fair in 1893. This 55-foot electric-powered wooden launch cruised Otsego Lake, the headwaters of the Susquehanna, for over a century. Over its lifetime the Chief Uncas has welcomed aboard 4 generations of the Busch family, New York tourists, and now visitors to the Susquehanna National Heritage Area region of York and Lancaster county.

In 2021 after offering three years of grant funded pontoon boat tours on the Susquehanna, Susquehanna National Heritage Area was in search of a bigger boat to continue and expand their River Discovery Tour program. Friends of SNHA, Liz and Steve Winard, of Shanks Mare Outfitters, knew a boat with a treasured history that would be the perfect fit for the heritage area. Lou Hager Jr., fourth great grandson of Adolphus Busch was interested in selling the electric powered wooden vessel that had carried passengers on Lake Otsego for over a century. With its well-documented family heritage, eco-friendly power, and historic association with the Susquehanna River at its source, SNHA decided the Chief Uncas would be the perfect vessel to showcase the non-profit’s mission and focus on history, environment, and the river. Thanks to the generous donations from Ann Barshinger, Doug Hoke, and George and Bambi Long, with additional funding support from the National Park Service and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, SNHA was able to give the Chief Uncas a new life as the flagship for their River Discovery Tours.

In October 2021, the Chief Uncas made her way on a flatbed trailer to her new home in York County Pennsylvania, 400 miles downstream from where she cruised for over a century. The following months, the Chief Uncas underwent general maintenance, electrical re-wiring, and-on water testing to receive US Coastguard certification. In Fall of 2022 SNHA launched the fourth year of their River Discovery Tour program, but this time aboard a historic vessel with its own unique history to tell.

SNHA is hard at work preparing the Chief Uncas for another boat tour season. June through October, guided tours aboard the Chief Uncas depart from the Zimmerman Center for Heritage. SNHA staff guide passengers on a 1-hour tour of the river, sharing the history of the Chief Uncas, stories of Lake Clarke’s special landscape, and the Susquehanna River’s lasting legacy. Passengers experience the joy of being on the water aboard a historic vessel, hear stories of the river, and view beautiful scenery and wildlife.

Tickets for a boat tour experience aboard the Chief Uncas can be purchased at or by calling the Zimmerman Center at 717-252-0229.