Boats once plied Okanagan Lake

Lake was used as transportation corridor connecting communities in the valley

Okanagan Lake was once the main transportation corridor between communities in the valley, and transportation was done by boat.

The first commercial boat on the lake was the Mary Victoria Greenhow, built and owned by Cpt. Thomas Dolman Shorts.

The boat was 10 metres long by 1.5 metres wide.

Shorts was born in Ontario in 1837 and arrived in the Okanagan in 1883. During his time in the area, he built and operated several of the boats that plied the lake.

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He died in Hope Feb. 9, 1923.

In 1893, the Canadian Pacific Railway launched the Aberdeen, the first sternwheeler on the lake. It operated until 1913 when it was dismantled at Okanagan Landing.

The last sternwheeler, the Sicamous, was taken out of service in 1935 as the automobile had taken over as the primary means of transportation in the area.

The captain of the Sicamous, Joe Weeks, arrived in Canada in 1893 when he was 15. He captained ships in the area from 1904 to 1935 and logged more than 3.2 million kilometres.

After the Sicamous was taken out of service, Weeks worked on tow boats until he retired in 1942.

He died in 1969, at the age of 92.

The Sicamous was abandoned for 16 years. In 1951, the Penticton Gyro Club bought the sternwheeler for $1 and restored the craft. It is now in place on the shore of Okanagan Lake in Penticton.

Today, boats still ply the lake, but these are primarily recreational vessels.

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