Colorado Steamships

From 1852 through 1909, Colorado Steamships ferried people and supplies up and down the Colorado River to mining camps and outposts. Following the discovery of gold in California, westward expansion of the United States was on the mind of most people seeking their fortune of livelihood. Wagon trains, horses and trains all brought people deep into the new county seeking their fortune. Lesser known is the role of the steamships, which brought supplies and people up the Colorado River from Baja California to the Green River in Wyoming.

View showing steamboat Cochan on the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona in 1900 - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
View showing steamboat Cochan on the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona in 1900 – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

In November of 1952, the steamship Uncle Sam launched steamship service on the Colorado River. The modest vessel was powered from mesquite wood to boil the water required to turn its paddle wheel located at the stern. The steamboat was capable of hauling some 40 tons of supplies up the river. Steamship service on the river proved to be a lifeline to early settlers of Arizona and California.

Mohave II at Yuma, Arizona, with Sunday school group embarked, 1876 - Unknown author - MacMullen, Jerry, Paddle-Wheel Days in California, Stanford University Press, 1944
Mohave II at Yuma, Arizona, with Sunday school group embarked, 1876 – Unknown author – MacMullen, Jerry, Paddle-Wheel Days in California, Stanford University Press, 1944

The steamers of the Colorado River range in size from just thirty five feet in length to over one hundred and forty nine feet. These purposes built ships, some of which could haul up to two hundred and thirty six tons of goods and people, could navigate the swift flowing river with just thirty inches of draft. The Colorado Steamships stern paddle wheels gained the best drive reputation for navigating with heavy flowing water of the Colorado with its ever shifting sand bars.

Colorado II in a tidal dry dock in the shipyard above Port Isabel, Sonora - MacMullen, Jerry, Paddle-Wheel Days in California, Stanford University Press, 1944
Colorado II in a tidal dry dock in the shipyard above Port Isabel, Sonora – MacMullen, Jerry, Paddle-Wheel Days in California, Stanford University Press, 1944

Steamships of the Colorado River operated six hundred miles from the gulf of Baja California up to Rioville, Nevada which is now submerged beneath Lake Mead. They ships helped open the south west and were the kings of the Colorado River Valley until competition from the local railroads took over the market. Sadly, although necessary, the damming of the Colorado River starting in 1905 locked the river up and prevents along distance travel on the Colorado River and doomed Colorado Steamships completely.

Colorado River Steamship Landings

The steamboat Mohave departing the landing in El Dorado Canyon.
The steamboat Mohave departing the landing in El Dorado Canyon.
Potholes, California, From 185918 mi (29 km)
La Laguna, Arizona Territory, 1860-186320 mi (32 km)
Castle Dome Landing, Arizona Territory, 1863-188435 mi (56 km)
Eureka, Arizona Territory, 1863-1870s45 mi (72 km)
Williamsport, Arizona Territory, 1863-1870s47 mi (76 km)
Picacho, California, 1862-191048 mi (77 km)
Nortons Landing, Arizona Territory, 1882-189452 mi (84 km)
Clip, Arizona Territory, 1882-188870 mi (110 km)
California Camp, California72 mi (116 km)
Camp Gaston, California, 1859-186780 mi (130 km)
Drift Desert, Arizona Territory102 mi (164 km)
Bradshaw’s Ferry, California, 1862-1884126 mi (203 km)
Mineral City, Arizona Territory, 1864-1866126 mi (203 km)
Ehrenberg, Arizona Territory, from 1866126.5 mi (203.6 km)
Olive City, Arizona Territory, 1862-1866127 mi (204 km)
La Paz, Arizona Territory, 1862-1870131 mi (211 km)
Parker’s Landing, Arizona Territory, 1864-1905
Camp Colorado, Arizona, 1864-1869
200 mi (320 km)
Parker, Arizona Territory, from 1908203 mi (327 km)
Empire Flat, Arizona Territory, 1866-1905210 mi (340 km)
Bill Williams River, Arizona220 mi (350 km)
Aubrey City, Arizona Territory, 1862-1888220 mi (350 km)
Chimehuevis Landing, California240 mi (390 km)
Liverpool Landing, Arizona Territory242 mi (389 km)
Grand Turn, Arizona/California257 mi (414 km)
The Needles, Mohave Mountains, Arizona263 mi (423 km)
Mellen, Arizona Territory 1890 – 1909267 mi (430 km)
Eastbridge, Arizona Territory 1883 – 1890279 mi (449 km)
Needles, California, from 1883282 mi (454 km)
Iretaba City, Arizona Territory, 1864298 mi (480 km)
Fort Mohave, Arizona Territory, 1859-1890
Beale’s Crossing 1858 –
300 mi (480 km)
Mohave City, Arizona Territory, 1864-1869305 mi (491 km)
Hardyville, Arizona Territory, 1864-1893
Low Water Head of Navigation 1864-1881
310 mi (500 km)
Camp Alexander, Arizona Territory, 1867312 mi (502 km)
Polhamus Landing, Arizona Territory
Low Water Head of Navigation 1881-1882
315 mi (507 km)
Pyramid Canyon, Arizona/Nevada316 mi (509 km)
Cottonwood Island, Nevada
Cottonwood Valley
339 mi (546 km)
Quartette, Nevada, 1900-1906342 mi (550 km)
Murphyville, Arizona Territory, 1891353 mi (568 km)
Eldorado Canyon, Nevada, 1857-1905
Colorado City, Nevada 1861-1905
365 mi (587 km)
Explorer’s Rock, Black Canyon of the Colorado, Mouth, Arizona/Nevada369 mi (594 km)
Roaring Rapids, Black Canyon of the Colorado, Arizona/Nevada375 mi (604 km)
Ringbolt Rapids, Black Canyon of the Colorado, Arizona/Nevada387 mi (623 km)
Fortification Rock, Nevada
High Water Head of Navigation, 1858-1866
400 mi (640 km)
Las Vegas Wash, Nevada402 mi (647 km)
Callville, Nevada, 1864-1869
High Water Head of Navigation 1866-78
408 mi (657 km)
Boulder Canyon, Mouth, Arizona/Nevada409 mi (658 km)
Stone’s Ferry, Nevada 1866-1876438 mi (705 km)
Virgin River, Nevada440 mi (710 km)
Bonelli’s Ferry, 1876-1935
Rioville, Nevada 1869-1906
High Water Head of Navigation from 1879 to 1887
440 mi (710 km
Soruce: Wikipedia

Colorado River Steamship Landings

Steamboats on the Colorado River

NameTypeTonsLengthBeamLaunchedDisposition
Black EagleScrew40 feet6 feetGreen River, Utah
June 1907
Exploded 1907
Charles H. SpencerStern92.5 feet25 feetWarm Creek, Arizona
February 1912
Abandoned
Spring 1912
Cliff DwellerStern70 feet20 feetHalverson’s Utah
November 1905
To Salt Lake
April 1907
CochanStern234135 feet31 feetYuma, Arizona
November 1899
Dismantled
Spring 1910
Cocopah IStern140 feet29 feetGridiron, Mexico
August 1859
Dismantled
1867
Cocopah IIStern231147.5 feet28 feetYuma, Arizona
March 1867
Dismantled
1881
Colorado IStern120 feetEstuary, Mexico
December 1855
Dismantled
August 1862
Colorado IIStern179145 feet29 feetYuma, Arizona
May 1862
Dismantled
August 1882
CometStern60 feet20 feetGreen River, Wyoming
July 1908
Abandoned
1908
EsmeraldaStern93 feet13 feetRobinson’s, Mexico
December 1857
Dismantled
1868
General JesupSide104 feet17 feetEstuary, Mexico
January, 1864
Engine Removed
1858
General RosalesSternYuma, Arizona
July 1878
Dismantled
1859
GilaStern236149 feet31 feetPort Isabel, Mexico
January 1873
Rebuilt as Cochan
1889
Major PowellScrew35 feet8 feetGreen River, Utah
August 1891
Dismantled
1894
Mohave IStern193135 feet28 feetEstuary, Mexico
May 1864
Dismantled
1875
Mohave IIStern188149.5 feet31.5 feetPort Isabel, Mexico
February 1876
Dismantled
Jan 1900
Nina TildenStern12097 feet22 feetSan Francisco, California
July 1864
Wrecked
September 1874
RettaStern36 feet6 feetYuma, Arizona
1900
Sunk
Feburary, 1905
St. VallierStern9274 feet17 feetNeedles, California
Early 1899
Sunk
March 1909
San JorgeScrew38 feet9 feetYuma, Arizona
June 1901
To Gulf
July 1901
SearchlightStern9891 feet18feetNeedles, California
December 1902
Lost
October 1916
Uncle SamSide4065 feet16 feetEstuary, Mexico
November 1852
Sunk
May 1853
UndineStern60 feet10 feetGreen River, Utah
November 1901
Wrecked
May 1902
Steamboats on the Colorado River 1852-1916 – Appendix A

Resources

One Reply to “Colorado Steamships”

  1. Pingback: Potholes California An Imperial County Ghost Town - Destination4x4

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.