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Summerland waterfront was once a transportation hub

Boats were once used for transportation in the Okanagan Valley
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Summerland’s waterfront was busy in the 1920s. The CPR wharf and railway car slip were built in June 1910. Lake transportation was the main method of transporting Summerland’s produce. The railway cars were moved into barges and debarked near Vernon. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

Okanagan Lake was once the main transportation corridor between communities in the valley.

The CPR wharf and railway car slip were built in June 1910. Lake transportation was the main method of transporting Summerland’s produce. The railway cars were moved into barges and debarked near Vernon. 

The wharf was built at a cost of $50,000. E.A. Jamieson was the engineer.

The wharf included a cold storage facility, plant station, freight shed and the slip dock with the railway cars. A packing house was at the shoreline.
The timbers for the wharf were supplied by James Fyffe.

Summerland’s 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.
He died in Hope on 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 S.S. 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 wharf was in use until the 1970s but eventually showed wear and was dismantled. 

In the 1990s, the Summerland Kiwanis Club and Summerland Rotary Club built a new wharf at the same location. It was officially opened on July 1, 1999, and was a popular location for residents and visitors.

In 2023, the pier was dismantled as the timbers were failing and unsafe. Construction is happening on a new pier, using the same footprint as the former pier.

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.



John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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