The SS Nasookin on beach at Midge Creek on the western shore of Kootenay Lake south of Procter. Hand tinted photo. Image courtesy of Touchstones Nelson Archives
Launched in 1913, the SS Nasookin was the flagship for the CPR's BC Lake and River Service as they prepared for an influx of tourists into southeastern British Columbia. The ill-timed expansion - World War One broke out in 1914 - was not limited to Kootenay Lake. Large ships, the SS Bonnington and SS Sicamous, sister ships to the SS Nasookin had been built and put into service on the Arrow and Okanagan Lakes as well. The CPR had also built elaborate hotels to house the incoming tourists at this time. The hotel in Balfour was soon converted to a sanatorium for returning war veterans infected with lung ailments. Through out this turbulent time, the SS Nasookin plied the waters of Kootenay Lake on the 'Crow' run - meeting the trains at Kootenay Landing (near Creston) daily and delivering passengers to Nelson. Built to accommodate 500 passengers with 54 staterooms, a full dining room and multiple smoking and ladies salons, the SS Nasookin was a floating palace. As the ship approached Nelson at night the whistle would blow and all of the lights would be turned on as a signal. A favourite pastime of the people of Nelson was to meet the arriving passengers at the City Wharf.
The SS Nasookin's steel hull increased its longevity. The ship had four decks plus the pilothouse, over 15 metres (50 feet) above the waterline on the hull. The main deck included the large freight area, cook's galley, pantry, cold storage, express room and quarters for crewmembers. On the Lower Cabin deck was the 48 seat dining room in the centre of the ship, surrounded on the port and starboard sides by staterooms. The Men's Smoking Room was located forward and the Ladies Saloon aft. The elegantly appointed dining room, set with white linens and silver service and attended to by white coated servers was lit by coloured skylights rimming the ceiling of the deck above. A beautiful wooden staircase ascended to a landing and then split to access the port or starboard sides of the deck. The Ladies Observation Salon (forward) was decorated with wicker furniture and the Men's Observation/Smoking Room (aft) furnished with large oak chairs, tables and spittoons. The staterooms on this deck were accessed from the balcony above the dining room with the coloured skylights above. The next deck had 18 staterooms opening onto a social hall along the length of the deck. This deck also included Officer's Quarters, writing room and observation room. The Pilothouse was accessed by an exterior stairway from the outside deck. Each of the many decks had access to outside areas, contributing to the ship's appearance as a "floating wedding cake."
On April 30, 1913, almost 2000 people came to watch the SS Nasookin slide down the ways at the Nelson Shipyard and into the water. The trip down the ways was not without its issues. Timbers smoked from the incredible friction, and the SS Nasookin leaned to one side as it reached the water. Wilf Hall, a Nelson old-timer, recalled an overeager steward filling the punch bowl prematurely resulting in spilled punch as the ship hit the water. Soon after the launch the maiden voyage of the SS Nasookin was from Nelson to Kaslo on May 24, 1913 to celebrate Victoria Day. On June 9th, the SS Nasookin replaced the SS Kuskanook on the 'Crow' run where she remained in service until the completion of the BC Southern Railway link from Procter to Kootenay Landing on December 30, 1930. The top speed for the SS Nasookin was 16 knots (30 km/hr), but regular service saw speeds of 14.5 knots (27 km/hr). The Nelson - Kootenay Landing run was not a demanding one as the long stopover at Kootenay Landing provided time for general maintenance and cleaning. The SS Nasookin was considered the best-kept ship of the fleet.
With the completion of the rail line, the SS Nasookin was retired on December 30, 1930. On April 17, 1931, it returned to work as a BC Government automobile ferry, running between Fraser's Landing (downstream from Balfour) and the end of the highway at Boswell on the east side of Kootenay Lake. When the highway to Gray Creek was completed, the SS Nasookin reduced its travel distance and commuted between Fraser's Landing and Gray Creek. For this work, the overhanging deck at the bow was removed to allow larger vehicles to park across the bow, a sight not often forgotten as the wheels of some vehicles were close to the edge on both sides.
The BC Government purchased the Nasookin on February 22, 1933. The three main timbers were cut and the overhang was pulled over the side with cables, the stempost was cut shorter and the bow railing was cut back. In May of the next year, the roof of the middle deck was lowered down to the next deck, the middle deck was removed up to the smokestack, the entire Texas deck was removed and Pilothouse was placed on the remaining Gallery deck. The removed material disposed of over the side of the ship as it continued to ferry vehicles back and forth across Kootenay Lake.
In 1947, the brand new MV Anscomb replaced the SS Nasookin. It was sold to N.C. Stibbs, who turned it over to the Navy League of Canada for training. The record high water levels of 1948 resulted in the SS Nasookin breaking free from her moorings and floating downstream towards the City Wharf, where it was tied up with little attention paid to the location. When the water levels dropped in 1949, the SS Nasookin came to rest on a concrete wall that had previously been submerged. With no support underneath, her back broke. She was sold in 1950 to Earle Cutler and stripped for parts. The hull and remaining Pilothouse and Ladies Observation Deck were towed upstream in 1954, with the latter two structures converted into a craft store and today, is a private residence.
Media Clip Description: The SS Nasookin approaching the wharf at Boswell in the late 1920s. The film was shot by the Reverend George R.B. Kinney while he was a minister for the United Church of Canada. He established the Kootenay Waterway Mission, where he would travel to isolated communities by boat. His films capture life in the late 1920s around Kootenay Lake.
Media Clip Description: The Outlet Hotel in Procter was a popular spot for Sunday picnics. This film clip by the Reverend George R.B. Kinney in the late 1920's shows a group arriving by sternwheeler at the Hotel for a day of festivities.