The Ships of Okanagan Lake
The SS Sicamous was the last stern wheeler to be launched in the Okanagan, but she was far from the only vessel to travel on Okanagan Lake. Many other vessels complimented her service; working with the railways to service the remote communities of Okanagan Lake.
SS Aberdeen (1893-1919)
The first paddle wheeler on Okanagan Lake was the SS Aberdeen. Launched in 1893, the modern, luxurious steamship made travel to the South Okanagan possible, comfortable, and fast. The Okanagan Landing shipyard was built to construct and maintain the Aberdeen, and would later serve many steamships.
Although the Aberdeen was retired in 1919 and demolished, she marked the beginning of a new era in the Okanagan Valley. People came flooding in, buying land and creating new lives for themselves. The CPR increased its stern wheeler and tug fleet to meet the demand.
SS Okanagan (1907–1934)
The SS Okanagan was launched in 1907. The ship was a sister ship to the SS Kuskanook (launched 1906 in Nelson, BC). The Okanagan was constructed at Okanagan Landing.
The SS Okanagan had almost double the tonnage of the SS Aberdeen and more spacious and luxurious passenger accommodations. The Okanagan freed the older steamship to be used for freight and drastically improved service on the lake.
The SS Okanagan was retired in 1934 and sold for scrap and spare parts. The Stern Saloon (a back room from the upper deck) was used as a beach hut for several years before being discovered and rescued by the Restoration Society. It was moved to the SS Sicamous Heritage Park in 2002.
The SS Okanagan Saloon will be undergoing restoration work later this year, thanks to a recent $10,000 donation from the Oktoberfest Society.
SS Sicamous (1914-1937)
The SS Sicamous is a stern wheeler launched in 1914. She was used on Okanagan Lake to deliver passengers, cargo, machinery, fruit, and mail. The SS Sicamous would depart from Penticton every morning and arrive at Okanagan Landing by noon before returning to Penticton. There were 14 scheduled stops, but passengers could request additional stops.
By 1935, highways and railways had decreased the need for steamships. A renovation transformed the Sicamous from a luxurious passenger ship to primarily a cargo carrier, reducing her size to decrease fuel consumption and wind resistance.
However, the SS Sicamous was retired the following year, with one last trip in 1937 for the Gyro Club. She was then left to float at Okanagan Landing for the next decade. The City of Penticton bought her in 1951 for $1 and towed her to rest in Penticton.
List of ships that did service on Okanagan Lake:
Other C.P.R. Ships:
Other Ships on that Travelled on Okanagan Lake
Canadian National No. 6 was a tug built in England in 1948 by Canadian National, CPR’s rival company. She operated on Okanagan Lake until 1973.
Like the SS Naramata, she transported fruit, mail, and other freight by barge from the communities along the lake to Kelowna, where it was loaded onto Canadian National trains and transported to Vancouver.
Canadian National No. 6 was towed to Penticton from Kelowna in 2007, where it joined the SS Sicamous and SS Naramata. No. 6 is the only vessel at the Heritage Park that was fueled by diesel instead of coal.
The Dredge Ships
There is a large white building in one corner of the Heritage Park that has been named “The Dredge Shed”. This sits at the mouth of where the Penticton River used to run before the construction of the river channel.
This 1930’s structure was built to house the infrastructure of the Dominion Governments Dredge and Pile driving operations. Here a small vessel with a working barge and dredge were housed. Their job was to maintain the navigable waters of Skaha Lake, (Dog Lake in the early years) Okanagan River, dredging shoals and sandbars, and driving piles to prevent boat wash on the switchbacks of the riverbank. The pile driver and dredge also maintained the government’s docks, and dredged the boat landings to accommodate the vessels as required.
The Dredge Shed is now a workshop for restoration activities of the SS Sicamous Society.