The steam sternwheeler Kuskanook (Ktunaxa language
for "end of lake") was constructed of wood in 1906 at
the "new" Canadian Pacific Railway shipyard in Nelson,
B.C. under the supervision of master builder James M. Bulger. The
building of the Spokane International Railway in 1906, provided
an entry for the CPR into Spokane from its line in southeastern
British Columbia and prompted a general upgrading of service on
this southern line. The commissioning of the Kuskanook enabled
the CPR to provide speedier and more commodious passenger and express
service on the Kootenay Lake link between Kootenay Landing and Nelson.
Some thought had been given to employing steel in the construction
of the hull and in utilizing compound cylinders and condensers in
the machinery, but in the end the Kuskanook was built on
the traditional lines of the Columbia River greyhounds. Her hull
dimensions were 59.0 m (193.5 feet) by 9.4 m (30.9) by 2.1 m (7').
Above the main-deck were a saloon deck and a Texas deck running
most of the length of the vessel. Surmounting the Texas deck was
a roomy wheelhouse. Her capacity was rated at 1,008.19 gross tons,
and 547.57 registered tons. Two horizontal high pressure cylinders
of 55.9 cm (22 inches) diameter and 243.8 cm (96 inches) stroke
working at 1241 kPa (180 psi) gave the vessel a rating of 32.3 nhp
The Kuskanook proved to be a speedy and reliable
vessel from the outset. She formally took over the Nelson to Kootenay
Landing run on July 19, 1906. She was known as the "Crow"
boat, as the service connected with the railway running east through
the Crows Nest Pass. The large vessel was never as handy as the
smaller sternwheelers in making awkward landings, but an extensive
refitting in 1911 did assist in making her more maneuverable. In
1913, the larger sternwheeler Nasookin was commissioned to
work the "Crow" run. The Kuskanook was maintained
in top condition thereafter, however, as the "Crow" run
was worked seven days a week, necessitating a 24-hour layover every
four to six weeks for a boiler wash. The Kuskanook was not
only able to maintain the speedy "Crow" run schedule as
relief boat on layovers of the Nasookin, but she served in
the summer as an excursion boat and additional freight and express
vessel in the shipping of fruit.
Some time was also spent on the Nelson to Kaslo
to Lardeau express run, alternating periods of lay-up with the sternwheeler
Kokanee. A lengthy lay-up for the Nasookin in 1922
returned the Kuskanook to regular service on the "Crow"
run. The old Kokanee was retired, leaving the Kuskanook
as the sole regular boat on the Nelson-Kaslo-Lardeau run and
as relief boat on the "Crow" run.
When it became necessary to haul the Nasookin
up on the ways for major repairs to her hull plates several months
after the retirement of the Kokanee, the remaining sternwheelers
Kuskanook and Moyie were subjected to considerable
pressure to maintain satisfactory standards of service. During the
1920's the Kuskanook remained a very popular excursion boat.
With the development of highways, a diminishing amount of way freight
was being handled by the sternwheeler Moyie so that this
latter vessel was readily available to relieve the Kuskanook
to work the more glamorous excursion and "Crow"run
On July 13, 1925 as the Kuskanook was preparing
for her morning run to Nelson, a water trap in the main steampipe
burst, killing three crew members. On December 31, 1930, with the
completion of the railway lake link on the west side of Kootenay
Lake between Kootenay Landing and Procter, the Canadian Pacific
Railway terminated fast sternwheeler service on its "Crow"
and Nelson to Kaslo runs. The Kuskanook was worked on a way
service between Crawford Bay, Procter, Kaslo and Lardeau for four
months in 1931 until her certificate expired. The Kuskanook
was stripped of her sternwheel, boiler, engines and fittings at
the Nelson shipyard. Her great steering wheel was left intact in
the pilot house.
In December, 1931 the hull was sold to Mr. A. D.
Pochin, who moored her at the Nelson City Wharf. She was fitted
out as the "Ship Hotel" in the hope of catching the summer
tourist trade, but a combination of a depressed economy and a prevalence
of bed bugs doomed this venture. For another couple of years, she
was pushed by the Moyie up to Kokanee Landing on the West
Arm of Kootenay Lake where her staterooms were used by campers unfazed
by cockroaches and bed bugs. Each fall she would be moved back to
the Nelson City wharf. On one such occasion, the Moyie with
the Kuskanook lashed to her side, narrowly missed fouling
the cable and colliding with the Nelson to Northshore cable ferry,
an ironic situation, as no such near mishap had ever occurred during
the two decades when both the cable ferry and the sternwheelers
were active on the West Arm
DISPOSAL & SALVAGE
By 1936 the Kuskanook was so waterlogged that
she was left at Kokanee Landing to settle and break her back. Her
cabins were removed for use as cottages, while the hull was left
While the location of this wreck has never been in
question, until 1989 it was ignored by local divers as being too
shallow to offer an interesting dive.
The remains of the Kuskanook now rest at
Kokanee Landing on Highway 3A some 20 kilometers east of
the City of Nelson. The wreck site is a short 10-minute walk from
nearby Kokanee Creek Provincial Campground. Access to the wreck
is easily gained through a narrow right-of-way which runs at right
angles to Kokanee Landing road. Twisted chain stays lying in the
brambles about 30 meters above the lakes high water mark are
readily spotted as one walks 100 meters along the gently sloping
path from Kokanee Landing road to the lakeshore.
During high water in the month of June the first
visual sign of the wreck is about 5 meters off shore in 0.6 meters
of water. This portion of the wreck lies amongst scattered large
boulders on a silty bottom. The wreckage here consists of the two-dimensional
portion of the bottom of the hull; the last 4 meters of the stern
are either missing or buried in sediment. For the first 15 meters
of visible wreckage, all that remains is the hulls fire charred
bottom, consisting of hull planks, 5.7 cm thick and the bottom portion
of the frames only. Parts of the fixed keel (26.7 cm x 26.7 cm)
are visible here also. At some point in time, this entire portion
of the wreck appears to have been burned.
As one moves from stern to bow, at about fifteen
meters along the keel the wreck takes on a distinctively three-dimensional
aspect. At this point one sees intact frames, longitudinal timbers
and hull planking covered with 5 mm thick iron hull sheeting. The
frames are 17.0 cm wide on 51.0 centres. Attached to the keel and
the frames is the centre keelson, 112 cm tall by 15 cm wide, made
up of Douglas-fir timbers. On either side of the centre keelson
lie the port and starboard keelsons. These keelsons consist of fir
timbers varying in thickness from 15.2 cm to 27.9 cm pinned together.
Further away from the keel are the port and starboard strength member
stringers. The strength member stringers comprise two separate timbers
lying beside each other, one a 22.9 cm wide by 38.1 cm tall timber
and the other a 23.1 cm wide by 15.2 cm tall timber. Still further
away from the keel, the starboard and port clamps are attached to
the frames. The clamps consist of scarf jointed 24.3 cm wide
by 61.0 cm high timbers. This section of the wreck lacks any deck
beams or deck planking.
At about 45 meters along the keel to the bow of
the wreck at 55 metres, deck beams, 20 cm wide x l0 cm thick on
51 cm centres and some deck planking, l.9 cm x l0.2 cm wear deck
over 3.2 cm x 10.2 cm subdeck, sit on intact longitudinal timbers,
frames and sheathed hull planking. No superstructure exists, but
three companion ways (2 access hatches and one coal bin hatch) are
located in the decking. In addition, fairleads and a towing bitt
can be seen on the bow.
The wreck contains numerous other interesting objects
within its confines. Evidence of portions of the hog support system
(hog chains, turnbuckles and wear plates) can be seen, Near midship
a vertical iron pipe, 30.5 cm diameter, is connected to the
hull; partially attached to the pipe is an iron cover, 48 cm diameter.
The function of the pipe is unknown. Another interesting item in
the bow portion of the ship is an iron pipe 30.5 cm diameter which
runs at right angles from the starboard keelson to the outside of
the hull, dipping from the top of the pipe to bottom or an angle
of approximately 45 degrees from vertical. This pipe may have been
used as an ash dump.
The Kuskanook can be accessed from shore, off
Kokanee Landing Road. A government right of way exists between the
houses but please respect the private property on all sides. At
low water the vessel will be completely exposed for half its length
and at that time it can be easily snorkeled. At other times of the
year a tank is worthwhile. Visibility is best in the spring.
The Kuskanook is a well preserved sternwheeler
wreck and likely is the largest wooden hulled vessel of its kind
known in Western Canada. It offers the curious much to look at and
is recommended to either the novice snorkeler or the experienced
diver as a worthwhile way of spending an afternoon.