Hot off the presses comes a new book, Steamboats, chronicling
steamboat traffic in our area. Authors Steven Barker and Jack Russell
met as fifth graders in the 1960s. Their fascination with steamboats has
led to a lifetime of tracking down details of commerce on local rivers
from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s.
Starting in 1859 with the side-wheeler Ranger, boats hauled goods up
rivers and carried raw materials out. Stern-wheelers became the norm
by 1871 trailing large log booms behind them. This was especially
important when the Hops Craze hit the Snoqualmie Valley. Farmers
across the valley read Ezra Meeker's book about raising hops, and soon
hops was the major crop. A riverboat captain George W. Gove and
partners formed the Hop Growers Association to run the Snoqualmie
Hop Ranch (present day Meadowbrook.) His steamers hauled his crop
and those of other's downstream to
market. He recalled guiding his
boat, the Cascade, through the
many turns in the Snoqualmie
River often stopping at Hance Moore's warehouse for lunch while
waiting for higher water.
By 1888, a regular schedule ran from Snohomish leaving at 8:00AM and
arriving in Fall City at 5:00PM. The boat would stay over and return the
next day. It brought passengers, groceries, hay, feed, and hardware.
In addition to managing sand bars, riffles, deadheads, and low water,
there was the added drama of sabotage from rival captains and the occasional shooting. Steam engines
exploded and boats got stranded—some even caught fire and sank.
By 1908, gas powered boats became popular, but it was the 1911 arrival of the railroad that sounded the
death knell for the steamboat era. It was cheaper, faster, and more versatile to ship by rail.
The book includes maps, 100 photos, and detailed descriptions of the boats that plied the rivers. Also
included is an interesting section on bridges of the area. They've done a great job of giving reference notes
and a comprehensive bibliography. The book can be ordered from their website www.barker-russell.com