Pacific Northwest Steamboat Photos

The Portland, Portland, Oregon

Attached photo I took of the PORTLAND at Portland, Oregon, on the Willamette River in October '06. This was in the morning before she was open for tourists. I stayed in a spiffy old hotel a few blocks away so I could walk down in the morning and luxuriate in seeing the old girl. That lumpy black chef's hat on top of her stock was put there only the week after some drunken local teenager had climbed the ladder on the stack and plummeted down the into the PORTLAND's innards. He was arrested and hospitalized.

contemporary paddlewheel steamboat

Attached photo I took of a rainbow created by water and sunlight off the sternwheel of the excursion boat Columbia Gorge on the Columbia River last October. The C.G. runs out of her spring/summer/fall base at the town of Cascade Locks, Oregon. On the 4 hour trip I was on, she went downriver (west) and was lowered through the locks at Bonneville Dam, continued west for a spell before turning around and heading back upriver where she got raised back up again at Bonneville en route to home. The scenery of that stretch of river (known of course as the Columbia Gorge) is breathtaking and it was a perfectly beautiful day for it.

During the winter the Columbia Gorge is in Portland. This was one of her last trips before the season ended. She's diesel powered but has the authentic look and feel of the old Columbia River steamboats.


Attached file scanned from a nice sharp 8 x 10 photo just delivered today . . . there was some information written on the back as to date, location etc. to which I added a brief Wiki paragraph on the Snake River.

The Steamer LEWISTON passing through Bonneville dam locks on the Columbia River en route to Portland, Oregon on March 6, 1940. while it was being brought down for the last time, after having served as the final paddlewheeler to operate on the Snake River.


"At 1,078 miles long, the Snake River is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, which is the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. Rising in western Wyoming, the Snake flows through the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho, then through the rugged Hells Canyon area via northeastern Oregon and the rolling Palouse Hills, to reach its mouth near the Washington Tri-Cities area, where it enters the Columbia River."



A neat photograph of the government snag boat MATHLOMA on the Willamette River, OREGON circa 1900.

The original real photo postcard is a faded sepia so it's difficult to bring contrast back to it but by converting the file to grayscale and adjusting the saturation it improved it somewhat. Included detail of the pilot house where the boat's name is easier to read.

Some additional history about the MATHLOMA has been provided by Jim Hale who found it for us in the book "Stern-Wheelers Up Columbia: A Century of Steamboating in the Oregon Country" by Randall V. Mills Pacific Books, 1947:



Steamer KENO exhibited at Dawson City, Yukon Territory 1982


Dawson City's Museum in Yukon Territory, Canada features the historic sternwheeler KENO, now on dry land next to the Yukon River. Paddlewheel steamboats carried passengers and freight for half a century after the discovery of gold on Alaskan and Canadian rivers.

Most of the original boats are gone except for a few maintained as museums.

Westours photo by Bob & Ira Spring 30 April, 1982


Str KLONDIKE on the Yukon River 1956

Press release 8 x 10 photo dated 23 April 1956 promoting travel to Alaska via Pan American airlines.

Caption on back:

Sternwheeler steamboats, reminiscent of the days of Mark Twain and the Mississippi, still ply regular routes along the Yukon River. The KLONDIKE, shown above, is available to summer visitors to the territory, according to Pan American World Airways. Alaska offers a wonderful opportunity for hunting and game fishing, besides sightseeing and visits to the relics of the gold rush and the Russian occupation.

PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS 135 East 42nd Street New York 17, New York


dramatic hi contrast 8 x 10 press release photo with the following caption on the back:
September 9, 1941

The sternwheeler UMATILLA, the last of the Columbia river craft which participated in the wheat run from The Dalles and Umatilla to Portland, quietly sank at her Shaver Transportation company moorage Sunday night.

Engines, boilers, etc., had been removed last autumn when she was retired. The UMATILLA was last used for a quarter boat for feeding workmen on conversion of the U. S. S. NEVILL, navy transport, last spring.

She was built at Celilo 33 years ago for government dredging in the upper Columbia river."
footnote from
Report of the Chief of Engineers U.S. Army

By United States Army Corps of Engineers



Government Printing Office

excerpted from page 2213:

"The steamboat UMATILLA , which was 50 per cent completed at the beginning of the fiscal year, was finished and accepted from the contractors in the latter part of November. She was at first put to work raking shoals at Biggs Rapids, and on December 23 proceeded to Homly Rapids, 117 miles above Celilo, where she was employed during the rest of the season, when the conditions permitted, blasting rocks, raking shoals, and removing boulders. High water finally put a stop to operations, and she proceeded to Lewiston, where she arrived May 9, and was laid up for the freshet season. The UMATILLA traveled 1,600 miles, acting as tender to scows, making inspection trips, etc."


4 of the pix I took in ought-six of the steamboat PORTLAND moored on the Willamette River next to Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, Oregon. The interior of the pilot house is especially tantalizing . . . could live there easily.

While under steam on the Columbia River PORTLAND experienced misadventures in 2008 and on Friday the 13th of July, 2012. Both of those events were documented below on The Old Salt Blog where videos of the 2012 accident can be viewed.

"Privateer Royaliste, the Sternwheeler Portland and the Very Bad Friday the 13th"
July 18, 2012
by Rick Spilman

Correction: Based on local news reports, we originally posted that water pressure from the steamer Portland's paddle-wheel damaged the Royaliste. We were incorrect. The Portland (as seen in the posted videos) clearly backed into the ketch, which was tied up alongside the dock.

Friday, June 13th, should have been a great day at the first St. Helens Maritime Heritage Festival for both the 55' privateer ketch Royaliste and the 186' historic stern-wheel steamer Portland. Both ships were making debuts of a sort. The Royaliste has been undergoing extensive restoration for several years and her first public re-appearance was last Friday. Likewise, the sternwheeler Portland, built in 1949 and owned by the Oregon Maritime Museum, was carrying its first passengers down the Columbia River since a mechanical failure nearly sent it plummeting over the Bonneville Dam in 2008.

Unfortunately, things did not go well when the vessels crossed paths. The Royaliste was at the dock when the Portland came backing down. The sternwheeler's rail struck the ketch's starboard side, opening several seams in the ketch's planking. (See the video). The Royaliste immediately began taking on water and was saved from sinking by portable pumps provided by U.S. Coast Guard and the Columbia County Sheriff's Office marine unit. According to its Facebook page, the Royaliste has made it back to its home port in Schooner Creek and is being kept afloat by pumps pending the arrival of the insurance surveyors.

The steamer Portland has had a troubled past. The Oregon Maritime Museum bought the Portland for $1 in 1991. The steamer was originally intended to be a stationary exhibit for the museum, but after restoration, the Portland was put into service giving occasional tours of local waters to museum members and guest. This came to an abrupt halt when the Coast Guard learned that the vessel was carrying passengers and yet had never been inspected.

For the next seven years the Portland remained stationary while upgrades were made to meet Coast Guard safety requirements. In 2008 the vessel was put back in service. In June of that year she participated in the first stern-wheeled steam boat race on the Columbia River in 56 years.

The race did not go well. Outside Cascade Locks, the Portland's steering locked up and it plowed into the bank, damaging the paddle wheel. Without power or steering, the boat drifted helplessly towards the Bonneville Dam. Until a tugboat arrived to pull it to safety, there were fears that the stern-wheeler and her passengers would go over the dam.

Thanks to Robert Kennedy, Alaric Bond and Melanie Sherman for passing along the news.


Dave Thomson on the barge in front of the PORTLAND sternwheel.

The Str. PORTLAND was built at Portland, Oregon, in 1947 by Northwest Marine Iron Works for the Port of Portland as a sternwheel towboat to replace the previous Steamer Portland which was built in 1919.

The hull was steel constructed and it supported wood upper decks; cabin deck, texas deck and wheelhouse.

She was decommissioned in 1981. Operated by two independent river tug boat companies, Western Transportation and Shaver Transportation, she served her entire working life as a Portland Harbor tug.

In 1989 she was adopted by the Oregon Maritime Museum as it's premier exhibit and still serves the Portland waterfront in that capacity. She is fully operational and periodically steams-up.

Length: 186.1'; beam: 42.1'; depth of hold: 9'; draft: 5.5; gross tonnage: 928; net: 733. Engines: 26" dia - 9' stroke; boiler pressure: 250 pounds.

Oregon Maritime Center & Museum
113 S.W. Front Ave.
Portland, OR 97204
Phone (503) 224-7724
Open 11 am - 4 pm, Fridays & Saturdays


Sternwheeler CLAIRE of Portland, Oregon in 1952
Columbia River steamer CLAIRE was built in 1918 563 tons 157 feed long
8 x 10 press photo
Rubber stamp dated June 30, 1952

Caption that was published in newspapers with this photo:

"Big paddle wheel which propels CLAIRE turn slowly, moving steamboat a slow speed through first lock stage as Oregon City. Steamboat proceeded though locks in 40 minutes."

steamboat photo

steamboat photo

steamboat photo

Postmarked April Fool's Day 1903 and addressed to Pearl Briggs, Coquille, Oregon. The sender was the guy standing on the bitts but I removed the word "ME" that he wrote next to himself. He didn't sign his name to the card. What flavor, a great cast of characters.

Canvas cover on the side of the delivery wagon on the right says Wm. Carver Transport / Phone. 37.

Second file is of my favorite detail of the 2 gents on top of the pilot house. The man seated is wearing a cap, suppose he could have been the pilot.

Some historical background to accompany the ECHO photo . . . adapted from this link - click here.

Myrtle Point, Oregon

Said to be one of the best-preserved small towns in Southern Oregon, Myrtle Point is at the southern end of the Coquille River Valley, about 25 miles inland from the Oregon Coast. The historic downtown district is ringed by many vintage homes, some well kept and others in the process of restoration.

The town sits along Highway 42, a major east-west route between US 101 and Interstate 5. Highway 42 S, which branches off Highway 42 in Coquille, provides an easy route to the Pacific Ocean at Bandon.

The annual Coos County Fair is held in Myrtle Point. It has been held yearly since 1912 and only cancelled once, in 1942 during the war.

The town's main event is the Harvest Festival, usually the last weekend in September.

The town is home to the Coos County Logging Museum, open in summertime. The museum is located in a domed, pioneer-era building with unusual acoustics.

Myrtle Point's boom years came in the late 1890s, when speculation ran high about a railroad connection to Roseburg. The railroad eventually chose another route, but the region's rich timberlands and farmlands sustained the community.

The town is adjacent to the Coquille River, which rises from the nearby Coast Range and finds its way to the sea at Bandon.

Once an important waterway for frontier-era commerce and transportation, the river is a popular fishery for salmon and steelhead.

The Coquille River Valley remains a productive cattle and dairy region, and there are sawmills and other small industry. Pride in a hard-working pioneer heritage runs high, and the town strives to maintain its downtown district and small-town character.

Wikipedia Echo sternwheeler built 1901 in Coquille, Oregon built by Ellingson. 76 tons; 66' length; fate unknown, probably abandoned 1911.

Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 11:49 PM
Subject: photo of the ECHO

Dave, My name is Diana James. We have this same photo.

Printed on the back is words written by Pearl James, my husbands Grandmother:

"This is our boat. Charles Zevely (Known as Chas) is standing on the bow with his arms folded. Charles Henry James is sitting up on the pilot house and the boy on his left is Captain Jack."

Pearl's maiden name was Zevely so Charles must have been her brother. Charles James was her husband. The couple were quite the pioneers and had 11 children. Charles Henry worked in gold mines in California and also lived in Alaska for a while. The last of the old pioneer homestead is on the Rogue River.

recent acquisitions

A scan of my favorite from a group of press photos taken on Lake Washington east of Seattle in 1970.

The camera angle, the beautiful sky & water, the perfect contrast and focus showcased the snag boat W.T. PRESTON beautifully.

While visiting Anacortes, Washington in October 2006, I was not aware that the Preston was retired there and only a short distance from an antique store . . . After leaving Anacortes (which I erroneously assumed was named after a lady named "Anna Cortez" I was not able to return. Maybe someday I'll get back up there and see the boat.

Below is an edited-down version of an online article on the Anacortes Museum & Maritime Heritage Center website:

The snagboat W.T. PRESTON was built in 1929 and retired in 1981, the last sternwheeler to work in Puget Sound.

Her crew aboard the PRESTON removed navigational hazards from the bays and harbors of the Sound and from its tributary rivers.

The W.T. PRESTON was named in honor of a distinguished civilian engineer who worked for the Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers.

The PRESTON operated as far north as Blaine and south to Olympia and Shelton. She worked 11 months out of the year, retrieving thousands of snags, piles, floats and other debris, including a damaged airplane, fish boats, derelict scows, and houseboats. In addition to her snagging chores, she was used as a pile driver and icebreaker, and dredged about 3500 cubic yards of material in an average year.

By the 1960s recreational boating increased on Puget Sound, necessitating more maintenance of these wider waters. In these circumstances, the W.T. PRESTON as a shallow-draft river vessel found itself vulnerable. One noted storm with a prevailing 40-knot wind blew the boat sideways during a hair-raising passage to Port Townsend.

The PRESTON continued to run until the costs to operate and maintain the snagboat became prohibitive.

The W.T. PRESTON was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1979. In 1981, the Corps retired her from duty and solicited proposals to preserve the snagboat.

Impressed with the plan offered by the city of Anacortes, Washington the Corps transferred title to Anacortes in March 1983. The city allocated $40,000 to prepare a waterfront site for the PRESTON beside its old Burlington Northern Railroad Depot.

After being towed to Anacortes, the PRESTON was taken out of the water and on June 22, 1983, hauled overland to her new resting site. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
W.T. Preston Steamboat Full Video Tour in Anacortes, WA

Str Clifford Sifton 24th July 1900

Str Clifforf Sifton Port of Victoria 50 percent

Photo from the city of Campbell River, British Columbia of the Gold Rush era Yukon River sternwheel steamboat CLIFFORD SIFTON taken on July 24th, 1900 with jubilant passengers and crew waving to the photographer after the boat had safely survived an exciting voyage through the White Horse Rapids which were submerged under Schwatka Lake after the Whitehorse Dam was built in 1958-59. The other photo is a small stern view of the CLIFFORD SIFTON with VICTORIA under her name above the paddlewheel indicating her home port in B.C.

The CLIFFORD SIFTON was built in 1898 at Bennett, British Columbia. She was 120 feet long and originally owned by Dominion Steamboat Line then acquired by the White Pass Line in 1903. She was last used as a powerboat in 1903, converted to a barge and first used at Hootalinqua in Yukon Territory in 1904. Demolished in a collision at Dawson City, Yukon Territory in 1905.

contemporary paddlewheel steamboat

contemporary paddlewheel steamboat

It's a "fur piece" to fly up and then to see the MOYIE but Jim says it's well worth the effort. Believe this photo was off "flickr." Nice pristine in white, good as new . . . You may already have the MOYIE's link on your site. The S.S. Moyie sternwheeler is one of the most significant preserved steam passenger vessels in North America. When the Moyie was retired in 1957, after a 59-year career with the Canadian Pacific Railway's BC Lake and River Service, she was the last operating passenger sternwheeler in Canada. She is in a surprisingly complete state for a vessel with such a long service record. The SS Moyie is located in the beautiful town of Kaslo, in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia.


First photo is of the steamer as ELIZABETH LOUISE on the Sacramento. In the second photo she was the QUEEN of SEATTLE at Seattle, Washingon. The initials "AQ" between her stacks originated during her second incarnation as the ALASKA QUEEN in Alaska.


Sternwheel Excursion Steamer

Size: 149 feet long

launched: 20 January 1981

Comments from the current owners of the ELIZABETH LOUISE:

"The steam engines on the Elizabeth Louise which drive the paddlewheel were built in 1884, and were originally installed for the primary propulsion on the floating sawmill RAY. Later, the engines spent many years powering the paddlewheel freighter WILLIAM SMITH. The third steamboat which used these engines was named the COPPERTORY, which was later re-named the DETROITER. After lying in a scrap yard, the engines were purchased in 1975. Construction of the ELIZABETH LOUISE was started in 1975. The hull was built in Rancho Cordova, California, approximately 21 miles from the launch point in the Sacramento River near Elkhorn, California.The Elizabeth Louise was launched on January 29, 1981. It was then outfitted, and the engines were refurbished and installed. It was placed into initial operation in the summer of 1984.

At quarter of its value, Queen of Seattle paddle-wheeler still for sale

Originally published July 2015The price has recently been cut to $250,000 on the 138-foot Queen of Seattle, a steam-powered, paddle-wheel boat moored on Lake Union.By Jack Broom Seattle Times staff reporterShe has worked in three states under three different names. She loves to party, and has her own bar, cabaret stage, dance floor, player piano and 38-whistle calliope. There's even a touch of mystery in her background, stemming from the fact that her first owner's body was found in a California river in 2003—a death never fully explained. Call her Queen of Seattle. That's the name this 138-foot paddle-wheeler used on her most recent job, taking visitors on a 2-1/2-hour loop around Lake Union from 2010 to 2013. "I love her. She's an amazing piece of history," said Lisa Dindinger of Alaska Travel Adventures, owners of the boat since 2005. "She needs loving care and someone with the know-how to make the best of her."

The steel-hulled vessel, which can carry up to 400 passengers, has the classic "floating wedding cake" look of a paddle-wheel riverboat, with its bright-red, 24-foot-diameter stern wheel. Dindinger said her company decided reluctantly that the boat isn't a good fit with its Alaska focus, and has offered it for sale for more than two years. Based on an insurance appraisal that put the boat's replacement value at more than $1 million, Dindinger said, the company first listed it for sale at $895,000, then dropped the price after about a year to $500,000 and—in the last two weeks—to $250,000.

Any potential purchaser would need pockets deep enough to cover not just the purchase price, but the succession of expenses for moorage, maintenance, fuel, insurance and renovations that will follow.

And there's this: Anytime the boat is under way, the Coast Guard requires that it have a licensed steam engineer on board.

Dindinger admits only a small slice of the boat-buying public would have a use for a vessel like this. She's had a couple of recent inquiries, but nothing that panned out.

The boat was built in Sacramento in 1984 as the "Elizabeth Louise" by Harold Wilmunder, whom Dindinger said was a sign maker by occupation and a steam engineer by hobby. He didn't operate a consistent tour business with the boat but did some charters and special events, and took friends and family for rides along the Sacramento River.

One day in 2003, the 78-year-old Wilmunder got a call from police saying it appeared a hatch had been forced open near the boat's bow. Wilmunder went to investigate and was never seen alive again.

After his body was found in the water between a Coast Guard boat and a dock, authorities said the death appeared to be a drowning but were hesitant to rule out possible foul play. Dindinger said she and her husband learned of the boat online and found Wilmunder's widow willing to sell. The boat was barged to Seattle, renovated and then steamed its way Ketchikan to begin running tours under the name "Alaska Queen."

(It still carries the initials "AQ" in gold letters high between its smokestacks, even though the hull identifies it as the Queen of Seattle.)

But Dindinger said the Coast Guard was concerned that the boat, which is tall, narrow and sits high in the water, might not be stable enough for winds and waves in Southeast Alaska, which could be as strong as those in the open ocean.

So the tour company brought the boat down to Seattle and put it to work on Lake Union. But Dindinger said it's been difficult for the company to give the boat tours proper attention, since its other operations are based in Alaska.

Dindinger said she doesn't expect the price to drop below the $250,000, adding that it could cost nearly that amount to dispose of the boat. "We sure hope it doesn't come to that," she said.


Yukon Steamer AKSALA (ALASKA spelled backwards)
Taken at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory July, 1949




History of the steamer CASCA from
The CASCA was a wooden sternwheeler, 180 feet long, with 36.5-foot beam and 5.6-foot hold.
She had one deck, was of carvel build, with a straight head and transom stern, and had 5 bulkheads.
Over the winter of 1936-1937, the CASCA was partially constructed at Vancouver for the British Yukon Navigation Company with pre-fab units then shipped to Whitehorse for assembly; most of the boat was then built at Whitehorse
Licensed for 180 passengers in 1937, she was the plushest ship on the upper river, used for most British Yukon Navigation Company tourist runs.
On June 20, 1974, the CASCA and the WHITEHORSE stood side by side out of the water on the ways when they were lost in a fire at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
They were occupied by squatters at the time who probably started the the blaze by accident with a cooking fire.
Fortunately the Yukon steamboats KENO (now at Dawson City, Yukon Territory) and the KLONDIKE (now at Whitehorse) have been preserved, restored and can be visited.
Below is a portion of an informative online article about the Klondike River "Five Finger Rapid not Rapid[s]."
"Highway #2—North Klondike Highway, Km. 380 - FIVE FINGER RAPID"
During the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, thousands of prospectors navigated their homemade boats and rafts 1300 800 miles from Bennett Lake to Dawson City.
Five Finger Rapid was a major obstacle along the route and more than a few stampeders ended up in the water after choosing the wrong channel.
". . . a great barrier looms up a mile ahead—five great irregular blocks of reddish rock ranging across the river like the piers of a bridge—making two principal channels. That on the left is growling ominously over shallow rocks, so we turn to the right and drop into a small eddy a few hundred feet above the great wall. We climb up and look at the rapid. It seems by no means dangerous. The opening is about one hundred feet wide, with vertical walls, through which the river drops a couple of feet, the waves rising angrily in a return curl, then dancing on in rapidly diminishing chops until lost in the swift current below."
" We turn our prow squarely for the middle of the cleft; a drop, a smash, a few quarts of water over the sides, and we are shot through into the fast current, without even looking back."
Tappan Adney, The Klondike Stampede.
Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press
Only one of the Five Finger channels was deep enough for the sternwheelers, but the current remained very strong.
At low water, the boats could steam right up and through it.
At high water, the falls created a 1 to 2 foot shelf.
A sternwheeler ascending the rapid could only move up over the shelf until the wheel lifted out of the water and then the vessel lost power.
A cable was attached to the rocks so sternwheelers could winch themselves up stream.
It took 15 - 20 minutes for a power-capstan on the deck to pull the sternwheeler through the channel.
In 1903, the sternwheeler Mary F. Graff touched bottom at Five Fingers and cracked several hull frames.
In 1911 there were complaints that nearly every season there was an accident caused by a steamer striking the rocks at Five Finger.
Blasting work started at Five Finger in 1900 and continued until at least 1927.
Rock was removed and the channel widened by 20 feet. . . .
The Five Finger islands and riverbank are composed of conglomerate rock (pebbles and boulders embedded in a sand-to-mud matrix) that is more resistant to erosion than surrounding mudstone layers.


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