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
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
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.