STEAMBOATING DOWN THE SNAKE RIVER

Steamboat

Content Tools

Buhl, Idaho 83316

I built and operate a stern wheel steamboat on the Snake River. 'The Idaho Queen' is 36 foot overall length. 28 foot hull and 12 foot beam. An upright boiler and a five by five Vulcan engine. The stern wheeler brings to mind some early history of steam boating in Idaho.

Gold was discovered in the Boise River basin of Idaho in 1862 near Fort Boise. An Oregon boat co. built a steam boat intended to take care of the needs and goods of the mining men. Steam boats plied up the Snake River as far as Lewiston, Idaho, but could not go any farther up the river due to rapid waters and falls. Therefore the machinery, fittings and so on had to be hauled by freight outfits to the building sight.

After four years the stern wheeler was started and completed. The boat was 130 foot long and had a beam of 25 foot and was called Shoshone (maybe named after a tribe of Indians in Idaho). The Shoshone could only navigate about 200 miles of the river due to the falls and rough waters. Another handicap was the shortage of wood along the river. Also about this time the gold rush was slowing up and the co. was not making any money.

The decision was to try to take the boat down to the Columbia River where some cargo could be hauled. The Snake River goes thru deep rock walls for about 150 miles below Olds Ferry, thru what is called Hell's Canyon. The canyon is in some places over 7,000 feet deep and averages about 5,000 feet deep. The captain and crew of four, traveled by horseback and foot to get to the inland bound boat.

After six days of very rough going over falls very rapid and rough water, the battered stern wheeler sailed out past the mouth of the Salmon River, with a hole in her bow and patches on the paddle wheel. After going thru the Goose Rapids the boat steamed into Lewiston, and the crew of the battered boat received a rousing welcome.

The stern wheeler at once was put to work hauling cattle and about for the first time began to make a little money. The Hell's Canyon was deemed impossible to navigate but the Shoshone proved otherwise. Now days large big rubber boats taking people under the guide of experienced river guides are the only boats. I have flown an airplane in the canyon and must say it surely is some large and deep gash in old Mother Earth.