Great to be Involved - West Wind Hardwood

If you’ve been in business long enough, not only does the hair change colour but you find you’ve been involved in many interesting projects.  Two noteworthy products are recreationally related, and oddly both date back 20 to 30 years ago.  

We’ll start with the preservation of the 1927 Rocky Mountain excursion boat, International. She may be the oldest continuously operating wooden passenger vessel in North America; certainly, she is the oldest operating passenger vessel in Canada, and owned and operated by the Canadian Kretz/Robinson Family.

MV International
August 1996 – by Jan Nielsen

She was purchased in 1985 by Stan Kurtz. In conjunction with his son, Rod (our 2006 contact), and his team of passionate, young shipwrights, the International was restored to Coast Guard standards. In 2006, teak lumber was purchased from WWH; we wonder if it was for her transom. This year, we supplied CVG Western Red Cedar planking. Almost a century later she continues to transverse the international watery boundaries between Alberta and Montana.

Prince of Wales Hotel and MV International
August 1996 – by Jan Nielsen

If you are interested in old wooden boats (and who isn’t – LOL 😉), or the history of Waterton Lakes National Park (Canadian) and/or Glacier National Park (US), or in the historical Prince of Wales Hotel built in 1927 by the Great Northern Railway, turn to Jeremy Masterson’s delightful essay in the September/October 2022 Wooden Boat Magazine.  His article is entitled “High Expectations – Preserving a 1927 Rocky Mountain excursion boat”.   Jeremy heads the restoration department of the Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston, Alberta specializing in carriages and coaches.  We had the pleasure of doing business with the museum just recently in March 2022.  They bought 6/4 ash.  Our 1996 road trip found us caught and blocked in the Cardston Parade.  It joined the parade or wait for the finish 😊  We waited!

Cardston Days Parade – August 1996
by Jan Nielsen

Waterton Lakes National Park was founded in Alberta in 1895 as Canada’s fourth national park. Waterton’s sister American park, Glacier National Park was established 15 years later.  In 1932, the two bordering parks were designated the world’s first International Peak Park.  Later in 1995, the Peace Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 1996, our family completed a wonderful road, camping trip from south to north through these two parks.  We drove the infamous “Road to the Sun”, washed our hair in chillingly cold glacier waters, and watched grizzlies cavort just a short distance away from our campsite.

The SS Keno and Dredge No. 4 – Yukon

As a visitor to Dawson City (wishful thinking on my part) and with five national historic sites in close proximity, you can quickly venture into 150 years of history. Knowledgeable guides entertain and inform visitors during an hour-and-a-half walk around the town core highlighting some of the history and characters of Dawson City. 

On the S.S. Keno, you can view a sternwheeler exhibit that offers a glimpse into daily life on the sternwheeler.  If you venture on a short drive southeast of Dawson City to Bonanza Creek Road, you can explore Dredge No. 4, a massive 8-storey machine, the largest wooden-hulled, bucket-line gold dredge in North America.

The SS Keno at the heritage site.

 S.S. Keno National Historic Site of Canada is a steam-powered sternwheeler river vessel that rests on the bank of the Yukon River in Dawson, Yukon; located in Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory.   She represents the importance of the lake and river steamers in opening the territory to newcomers. From the 1890s to the 1950s, riverboats provided vital transport along the Yukon River and its tributaries. In 1922, the British Yukon Navigation Company built S.S. Keno to ship silver-lead ore on the Stewart River from the mines in the Mayo District, returning with vital supplies. For 29 years, this wood-burning, steam-powered vessel navigated Yukon waterways, connecting Northerners to the outside world until modern roads extended into the interior. In 1937 it was cut in half to permit three meters to be added to its length, increasing its freight capacity. She retired at the close of river navigation in 1953.  

Late in 1958 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) announced its opinion “that it is of national historic importance to preserve a typical representative or representatives of the lake and river sternwheel steamship transport.”  In 1959 four of the surviving sternwheelers were offered by the White Pass company to the Canadian Government for preservation. The SS Keno, SS Casca, SS Klondike, and SS Whitehorse were all out of the water in Whitehorse and were offered to the government on an “as is, where is basis.”

On 25 August 1960, the Keno left Whitehorse to sail downstream to Dawson City. In doing so she became the last of the Yukon’s sternwheeler steamers to navigate the Yukon River under her own power. Three days later she arrived in Dawson and was subsequently installed as a tourist attraction and a permanent memorial to the approximately 250 sternwheelers that provided a vital transport service on the Yukon River and its tributaries during the latter half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

By Mike Beauregard from Nunavut, Canada – Klondike Dredge No 4, CC BY 2.0

Gold Dredge No. 4, Klondike Gold Fields

Not long after gold was discovered in large quantities in the Klondike, dredges were brought into the Yukon, the first dredge being built in the fall of 1899. One of two dozen dredges that worked in this area.  Dredge No. 4 is the largest wooden hull, bucket-line dredge in North America, it was designed by the Marion Steam Shovel Company.  She was built in 1912 for the Canadian Klondike Mining Company.

It is 2/3 the size of a football field and 8 stories high. The dredges were a very efficient means of mining gold. On its best day, it unearthed over 800 ounces. As well as gold, the dredge recovered everything in its path, including some old, cured hams thrown down a shaft in days gone by, prehistoric mammoth ivory, and a set of false teeth.

Throughout the summers of 1991 and 1992, the dredge was excavated, refloated, and relocated to its current position on higher ground to protect it from seasonal flooding.  In September 1997, Dredge No. 4 was designated a National Historic Site of Canada because of its association with Klondike gold mining and as symbolic of the evolution of gold mining from a labor-intensive activity to a mechanical process. 

The years are foggy with close to 30 years gone by and a little brain fog has settled but it was around 1996/1997 that West Wind became involved with the supply of Douglas-fir for both the restoration of the S.S. Keno and Dredge No. 4.  

There’s a good article in the August 2022 edition of the Western Mariner Magazine, called “Restoring the Klondike – Preserving marine heritage with Parks Canada”.  It was written by Kathy Burden.

Jan and I have never traveled to the Yukon.  It’s not for lack of a travel desire floating around in our bucket list of trips near and far.  So sadly, we have no personal photos to augment this 2nd little piece of writing.  

Nevertheless, West Wind is always proud to be involved in the restoration of anything ‘wood’; especially those projects that acknowledge times gone by and/or keep some grand old ‘dame’ out of the junkyard and in the forefront of upcoming generations.  We couldn’t agree more with Terry Karlsen’s comment in the Western Mariner article, “These are the instruments that helped build our country.  And to bring these things back, breathe new life into them, tangible objects that people can enjoy and visit and show their children…it’s close to my heart.”   Terry and his crew of carpenters have spent several seasons working on contracts for Parks Canada.

Share your thoughts and/or experiences of your restoration projects. Send them to me (Shelley) at

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