Dredging the Okanagan River in 1909. The work on the OKanagan River started in 1908 to dredge the channel. Passenger and freight service between Penticton and Kaleden started in 1912 (with the vessel Mallard) but navigation on the river portion between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake was challenging and the route was soon abandoned. By 1952, work began on channeling the river; this work was completed by 1958. (Photo courtesy of the Penticton Museum and Archives)

Historic photo: How the Okanagan River Channel came to be

Dredging in Okanagan River in Penticton started in 1908

  • Sep. 20, 2019 12:00 a.m.

Proven to be a challenging route for passenger and freight service, the river between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake was abandoned and eventually the route became the Okanagan River Channel.

While it is a favourite summer pastime of floating down the channel today, passenger and freight service between Penticton and Kaleden started in 1912 (with the vessel Mallard).

Navigation on the river portion between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake was not easy, so efforts were made to dredge the river to restrict it from numerous winding channels through the floodplain to a single circuitous channel.

Dredge boats, small vessels, with a barge, dredge and boom (crane) attached, were sued to dredge the shoals and switchbacks of the winding Okanagan River, so that other vessels could travel safely. The navigation improvements and maintenance activities continued yearly until 1917, when, with the improvement of area roads and the coming of the Kettle Valley Railway — river transport ceased and dredging continued.

READ MORE: Over 50,000 fry released into the Okanagan River Channel

Joe McDonald was placed in charge of operating a swing-boom to dredge the Okanagan River channel. He was also responsible for placing brush along the banks, and driving piles along the side of the river to prevent erosion.

Several years later a control dam was constructed at the mouth of Okanagan River on Okanagan Lake. Although navigation was no longer possible, the dredge boats were still kept busy, with the river channel dredged in the hopes of preventing flooding and to keep water flowing in the channel and off land adjacent to the river channel.

Dredging stopped after the completion of the Penticton channel project in 1953.

— Information courtesy of sssicamous.ca and the Okanagan Basin Water Board

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