Transporting Northern Dreams: Steamboats on the Peace River, 1903-1930

Creator(s): Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre

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.

Prior to the arrival of the first steamboats river transportation was limited to scows, York boats and rafts which required a large amount of human effort and were limited in effectiveness against the strong current of the river. Steamboats were to be able to carry far more freight and passengers and, with their regularly scheduled trips, were to create a new world for the residents of the Peace River region. Indeed, the steamboat was to become a symbol of the new reality to be found on the Peace River.

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