Sternwheelers - the workhorses of the river
Sternwheeler – the workhorse of the river

From the earliest days of settlement on the Fraser River, it was the great flat-bottomed sternwheelers that were the workhorses of the river. They had names like “Beaver”, “Paystreak”, “Reliance”, and “Ramona”.

The most useful aspect of these boats was that flat bottom as it allowed the boat to come very close to shore without requiring a dock or wharf. A simple plank extended to shore would serve to load and unload goods, livestock, people and wood for the ship’s boilers.

Much of the sternwheeler traffic was controlled by the William Irving family of New Westminster, whose Irving House now serves as a museum. By 1905, local man Alonzo Baker was a captain for the Irvings and he would berth his boat at Albion when he was not working.

In addition to their use as basic transport and delivery, the big boats were also used by the communities on the river for excursions to picturesque places like Pitt Lake or for travelling dances that were used as fund-raisers for various community infrastructure projects.