History of Airboats

By Jungle Erv's Marketing Team October 22, 2018

Airboats are a rather funny-looking boat by some standards. They’re long and sometimes fairly low with a big propeller on the back that looks like someone welded a massive fan on the back. Their specific design isn’t just for looks — it’s practical, too. With the propeller being out of the water, they have a totally smooth bottom. Their design makes them ideal for certain environments like the Everglades.

So how did these unique aquatic vehicles come to be? Below, we’ll talk about how these machines were invented and when they were brought to the Florida Everglades.

Who Invented Airboats?

Alexander Graham Bell, who patented the first telephone, invented the airboat in 1905. He was working out of his labs in Nova Scotia, Canada, at the time. Graham Bell was interested in trying out different configurations and engines. He likely asked himself if the propeller could be taken out of the water and, if so, where it would sit.

Airboats were also not originally called “airboats.” Their first name was “fan boat,” probably because the propeller on the back of the boat looked like a huge fan. The first airboat ever built was named The Ugly Duckling. Do you think this name was because Graham Bell and his team thought it looked odd compared to other boats?

Since it was invented as part of an experiment that was simply asking “What if?”, the airboat was likely underutilized for a while until it was introduced to Florida.

History of Airboat Rides in the Everglades

Airboats wouldn’t come to the Everglades for another 15 years after Graham Bell built and tested The Ugly Duckling in 1905. Glenn Curtiss, an associate of Alexander Graham Bell, saw the potential for airboats being used in the swamps and marshes of the Florida Everglades. The first airboat registered in Florida was in 1920, and was called the Curtiss Scooter, after Glenn Curtiss.

In the 1930s, more and more airboats that were built by Everglades locals starting popping up. People were seeing how effective they were at navigating through the tricky environment of the Everglades.

In many parts of this area, the water is fairly shallow and has many aquatic plants. Boats with submerged propellers just don’t work in this type of environment. During the same time period, people were making alterations to Graham Bell’s original design, perfecting it for their needs in the Everglades.

Before airboats were introduced, the Everglades were considered an almost useless area. The airboat’s invention opened up the area to be explored and gave locals a fun pastime for the weekends.

Today, airboat rides are popular among tourists and locals. When you’re out in the Everglades, bouncing lightly off the water with the wind in your hair, there’s nothing else quite like it.

At Jungle Erv’s Airboat Tours, you can spend an entire day experiencing the beautiful Everglades up close. Choose from a variety of different airboat tours and then enjoy our other attractions, which are included with the purchase of your airboat tour!

Come to our alligator show and learn about these fascinating animals and take a stroll along our mangrove boardwalk. Call us today to learn more!


A Letter From

Jungle Erv

Welcome to the
Florida Everglades!

I am Jungle Erv- son of the alligator man. My great-great-grandfather was a moonshiner and fisherman. My grandfather preached the Gospel to the Islanders. My mother traded deer meat with the Seminole Indians when she was a little girl. My father was the world famous alligator man. Why choose Jungle Erv’s Airboat Tours? My grandchildren are 6th generation Gladesmen. Jungle Erv’s captains are all U.S. Coast Guard licensed. Get the BEST value with our FREE boardwalk and educational gator show. You do not need to sign a waiver to ride on Jungle Erv’s Airboat Tours. Hope to see your smiling faces as we journey through the wild Everglades!