Wardner - The Riverboat Era

September 20th, 2021 1 Minutes
Kootenay River Bridge at Wardner Collection No. 2078.0020 – Image courtesy of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

Steamboats like the Gwendoline, North Star, and Ruth were the only means of travel to move materials and passengers before the railroad’s arrival. Steamboating was the way of life in the East Kootenays until a road bridge was built in 1909, crossing the Kootenay River.

The riverboat era was not without adversity, and both the Ruth and Gwendoline wrecked on May 7, 1897, after making several successful round trips from Jennings to Wardner and back again.

On a return trip to Jennings from Wardner and loaded with ore, a log drifted into the sternwheel and the rudder of the Ruth; without its steering ability intact, it crashed into some rocks and the Gwendoline not far behind, was unable to pass, resulting in a catastrophe.

“As in the case with the Rustler (a riverboat that had also crashed in Jennings Elbow Canyon), all of the passengers were saved.

The Ruth, however, was destroyed. Less than one month later, on May 28, 1897, the Gwendoline was patched up and back at it again”, Reflections on the Kootenay, Wardner B.C. 1897-1997 by Constance and Christopher Graf.

S.W. Kootenay Collection No. 0155.0085 ca. 1968 – Image courtesy of the Cranbrook Archives and CBIRH
Passenger and crew member docked S.W. Kootenay at Bummer Flats on the Kootenay River between Wasa and Fort Steele.
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