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Transporting Northern Dreams: Steamboats on the Peace River, 1903-1930
Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre
Peace River , Alberta

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   In the spring of 1930 the
S.S. D.A. Thomas, one of the
largest steamboats to be used
in western Canada, steamed
from its berth at Peace River
in northern Alberta to Fort
Fitzgerald on the Slave River
where it was to be scrapped.
This voyage was to mark the
end of steam navigation on

the upper Peace River.
Beginning in 1903 no fewer
than seven steamboats had
been used to transport
freight and passengers on the
900 km navigable length of
the upper Peace River in
northern Alberta and British
Columbia. These steamboats
had been fuelled by the

region’s forests and the
dreams of their builders and
operators.
   The Peace River region in
the early 20th century had
been an environment that
engendered excitement and
dreaming. It was one of the
last regions in western
Canada where land was

available for homesteading
and there was great potential
for economic enterprise
because of this and the
area’s natural resources.
Several entrepreneurs, such
as “Peace River” Jim
Cornwall, were to attempt to
harness this potential and
create new industries while

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