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Early Boats

Early Boat - Marion
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The Marion, a small boat compared to the 'floating palaces' that would come to navigate the same waters just a few years later. The Marion was able to navigate the rivers when the water levels were low and other vessels would not make it through the winding channels. Image courtesy of Touchstones Nelson Archives

Early Boats

The steamboat Midge on the Kootenay River
SS Midge 1884-1894

The Midge, the first steam-powered boat to work on Kootenay Lake, arrived from England in 1884. W.A. Baillie Grohman imported her to work on his reclamation plans for Kootenay Flats, near present day Creston. The Midge was registered as farm implement in order to circumnavigate import charges into Canada, since the object was to be used to help drain wetlands and create farmland.

An African teak boat powered by a wood fired engine, the Midge was built in 1883 in England and used on the Norwegian coast until Grohman imported it to Canada. It was a 9 metre (30 foot) long screw-propelled launch with no cabin. It needed to tow a scow to haul any cargo as the boiler and engine took up most of the room in the boat. One of the highlights of the boat was its commanding steam-powered whistle.

In 1888, Baillie Grohman sold the Midge to J.W. and R.A. Cockle to be used around Crawford Bay for jobbing and logging. They sold it in 1891 to Tomas Jones Davis. Renamed Mudhen to reflect Davis' nickname, it was used with a barge to transport produce from his farm on the Kootenay Flats to Ainsworth, Kaslo and Duncan Lake mining camps. When the 1894 flood wiped out his entire farm, Davis left the area, abandoning the Midge on the west bank of the Kootenay River just north of Creston Ferry. Eventually, she silted over. Before she disappeared completely, Guy Constable secured her sternpost, rudder and other items. These are now on display at the Creston Museum, and the propeller and shaft are on display at Touchstones Nelson.

SS Galena 1888-1897

The SS Galena was a screw-driven steamer and the most important vessel on Kootenay Lake prior to the construction of the SS Nelson in 1891. It had a small cabin for passengers and a reasonable freight capacity. It was built in 1888 at Bonners Ferry and remained in service until it floundered in 1896 at Pilot Bay. It was raised in 1897 and scrapped at Kaslo.

SS Marion 1888-1907

The SS Marion was built in 1888 in Golden. In 1889, it was sold and shipped to Revelstoke to work on the Columbia River and Arrow Lakes from Revelstoke south to Sproats Landing. It worked as a low-water vessel, able to navigate the Narrows on the Arrow Lakes during low water, until 1897, when it was shipped east for operation on the Duncan River, at Crawford Bay on Kootenay Lake and at Kootenay Flats. It sank at Kaslo in January 1901 in a storm and was subsequently broken up. The last owner, Captain Robert Sanderson, used the engines for boring wooden water pipes at Halcyon for his hot springs resort in 1907.

SS Creston 1908-1920

The SS Creston was a wooden sternwheeler built in Nelson by George Hale for Matthew Reid and Bill Nahl. It worked small excursions from Nelson, traveling downstream from Nelson to Luna Park (Grohman Creek) and upstream to Ferndale Park (Shannon's Point). When the City's streetcar was out of service from 1908 to 1910, it also spent the summers taking picnickers to Lakeside Park. In the off-season it worked some odd jobs in the area until it was broken up in 1920.

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