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Sternwheeler Kokanee on the West Arm

The SS Kokanee at Nelson Image courtesy of Touchstones Nelson Archives

Quick Facts


Year Built: 1896

Location: Nelson Shipyard

Company: Columbia & Kootenay Steam Navigation Company

Year Withdrawn: 1923

Notes: Proudly displayed the set of deer antlers on its pilothouse symbolizing its record as the fastest sternwheeler on the lake.

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The SS Kokanee

Sternwheeler Kokanee at Deanshaven

The largest sternwheeler on the lake when it was launched in 1896, the SS Kokanee was also the fastest. Built in Nelson by James Bulger for the Columbia & Kootenay Steam Navigation Company, at a cost of $22 000, the SS Kokanee launched on April 7, 1896. Powered by a second-hand engine manufactured in 1877 and taken from the ill-fated SS Columbia, (a sternwheeler from the Arrow Lakes route that burnt in 1894,) the SS Kokanee attained impressive speeds. Its trial run in May of 1896 was a race with the SS International, with the newly launched boat attaining speeds of 29 km/hr (18 m/hr). For the Nelson - Kaslo run, it set a speed record of two hours, 47 minutes, including three stops along the way. The SS Kokanee was the fastest boat on the water until the launch of the SS Kaslo, which held the title until it sank in 1910.

The SS Kokanee was well-appointed with a dining room with three tables and seating for 18, 11 staterooms capable of sleeping 33 and room for 200 passengers. A wood settee in the men's smoking room followed the curve of the bow of the boat. There were oak chairs, card tables and the requisite brass spittoons. The ladies' parlor was decorated with rocking chairs, carpets, an upholstered curved settee and curtains, providing a luxurious surrounding in the midst of the wilds of British Columbia.

The favoured boat of the city of Nelson, it worked the Nelson - Kaslo run from 1896 to 1913. Replaced then by the SS Kuskanook, it worked relief until 1917. In 1923, it was partially dismantled; the boilers and paddlebox removed and was sold to Richard Deane for $848. It was then towed to Deanshaven, south of Riondel, to be used as a fishing lodge. The SS Kokanee sank at Deanshaven in November 1932.

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