Steamboats of the Stikine River

Steamboats operated on the Stikine River in response to gold finds in along that river and in the Cassiar Country of northwestern British Columbia, Canada.

Early activity

The Stikine River in northern British Columbia and Alaska has had three distinct periods of riverboat activity. The first was during the Stikine Gold Rush of 1862, the second during the Cassiar Gold Rush of the 1870s, and the third was in relation to the Klondike and Atlin Gold Rushes from 1898 onwards.

Captains William Moore and William Irving vied for river traffic and fees during the first gold rush. Both were indomitable pioneers chasing gold rushes up the continent from Oregon to Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. Moore brought his steamer the Flying Dutchman up the river in 1862 as an exploratory side trip to the Cariboo Gold Rush. The Collins Overland Telegraph Company steamer Mumford ventured up the river in 1866. Another rush in 1874 to Dease Lake brought the Gem, Western Slope and the Gertrude.

Gold rush of 1898

With the discovery of gold at Dawson City, Yukon on Rabbit Creek in 1897, pandemonium erupted on the Pacific Coast, as unemployed, young, adventurous headed north to seek their fortune. Travelling by boat from Seattle and the 49th Parallel, Sourdoughs embarked for the Lynn Canal and the Chilkoot Pass. Strangely, materials heading north had to be transhipped first into American territory, unloaded on a beach, hauled overland back into Canadian territory, and then by small boat down the Yukon River to Dawson. Canadian Merchants sought an "All Canadian" route whereby goods could travel by river steamer from Vancouver or Victoria, in bond, pass US territory at Wrangell, and churn up the Stikine river 130 miles to the head of navigation at Glenora, near Telegraph Creek. Some two dozen boats were built or spent a summer or two on the river.

However, the feasibility of the route proved less than advantageous than the Lynn Canal route at Skagway. The packers would have to move supplies 150 miles north along the Collins Overland Telegraph line to Teslin Lake, and thence down the Yukon to their destination. The completion of the White Pass and Yukon Railway finished dreams of the Teslin route and the steamers moved off the Stikine to other routes. The SS Moyie was built in Toronto in sections to run on the Stikine route. As the project never materialized, the Moyie never saw the Stikine but saw service elsewhere for nearly 60 years.

The Hudson's Bay company maintained a trading post and it needed access. The HBC ran the steamer Port Simpson on the Stikine until 1916.


The following steamboats and related vessels operated on the Stikine River. Codes for this table are: A = abandoned; B = burned; C = converted; D = dismantled; R = Renamed; S = Sank; T = Transferred; W = Wrecked; X = Explosion of boiler.

Steamboats of the Stikine River
Name Owner Year Built Where Built Length Gross




Alaskan Moore/Meyers 1886 Seattle 84.5 feet (25.8 m) 155 T[1]
Beaver 1873 Portland 125 feet (38.1 m) 292 1878 W[2]
Caledonia (1891) HBC 1891 New Westminster 100 feet (30.5 m) 237 1898 D[3]
Caledonia HBC 1898 Vancouver 142.4 feet (43.4 m) 569 1898 T[4]
Canadian CDC 1898 Victoria 125 feet (38.1 m) 716 T[5]
Casca CTTC 1898 Esquimalt 140 feet (42.7 m) 590 1901 T[6]
Cassiar W.J. Stephens 1879 Seattle 129.3 feet (39.4 m) 289 1881 T[7]
Columbian CDC 1898 Victoria 129.3 feet (39.4 m) 716 1898 T[8]
Courser A. Peers 1892 New Westminster 125 feet (38.1 m) 161 1898 T[9]
Distributor GTPR 1908 Victoria 136.6 feet (41.6 m) 607 1908 T[10]
Duchesnay CPR 1898 Vancouver, BC 120 feet (36.6 m) 277 1898 T[11]
Gypsy Queen[12] 1897 Cottonwood Is., AK 61.8 feet (18.8 m) 107
Glenora 1898 Tacoma 126.2 feet (38.5 m) 542 1898 T[13]
Hamlin CPR 1898 Vancouver, BC 141.2 feet (43.0 m) 515 1901 T[14]
Hazelton R. Cunningham 1898 Victoria, BC 134.4 feet (41.0 m) 378 1912 D
Iscoot KMTTC 1898 Vancouver, BC 143 feet (43.6 m) 590 1898 W[15]
McConnell CPR 1898 Vancouver, BC 142.2 feet (43.3 m) 727 1898 D[16]
Mono TTC 1898 Stikine River 120 feet (36.6 m) 278 1898 T[17]
Moyie CPR 1898 Nelson, BC 161.7 feet (49.3 m) 834 1898 T[18]
Minto CPR 1898 Nakusp, BC 161.7 feet (49.3 m) 829 1898 T[19]
Louise KMTTC 1883 Seabeck, WA 91.6 feet (27.9 m) 168 1898 T[20]

See also


  1. Working out of Sitka as of 1904.
  2. Wrecked lower Stikine, machinery salvaged.
  3. Rebuilt ca. 1895, lengthened to 132 feet (40.2 m). Engines to Caledonia (1898).
  4. To Skeena River after six trips on Stikine, wrecked on Skeena in 1908, machinery to Omineca.
  5. To Yukon River, later abandoned at Whitehorse
  6. To Yukon River, wrecked there in 1936, engines and fittings salvaged.
  7. Made one trip on Stikine, then transferred to Fraser River, wrecked there 1882, salvaged, rebuilt, later to Yukon.
  8. Made Wrangell, then to Yukon, destroyed by fire 1906.
  9. Worked 1898 season only on Stikine, then to Fraser river, wrecked there 1905.
  10. Made several trips up Stikine, then to Skeena River, scrapped 1911.
  11. Later destroyed by fire at Robson West, BC, June 1900
  12. Built for service on the Stikine River.
  13. Intended for Stikine service, but sent to Yukon instead; burned at Dawson City in 1902.
  14. Worked 1898 season only on Stikine, to Fraser river in 1901.
  15. Lost en route to Stikine, never placed in service.
  16. Worked 1898 season only on Stikine, sustained heavy damage in collision with Hamlin, scrapped 1901 as a result.
  17. To Yukon following 1898 season, destroyed by fire at Dawson City in 1902.
  18. Prefabricated hull was intended for service on Stikine, but diverted to Kootenay Lake.
  19. Prefabricated hull was intended for service on Stikine, but diverted to Arrow Lakes.
  20. Worked 1898 season only on Stikine, destroyed 1899 by fire en route to Yukon.


  • Affleck, Edwin L, ed. A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska, Alexander Nicholls Press, Vancouver, BC (2000) ISBN 0-920034-08-X
  • Downs, Art, Paddlewheels on the Frontier: The Story of British Columbia and Yukon Sternwheel Steamers, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA (1972) ISBN 0-88826-033-4
  • Turner, Robert D., Sternwheelers and Steam Tugs An Illustrated History of the Canadian Pacific Railway's British Columbia Lake and River Service, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, BC 1984 ISBN 0-919203-15-9
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