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Early Boating on Yellowstone Lake

ca1871 - early 1920s 

Copyright 2021 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

Yellowstone Lake, picturesque america
Yellowstone Lake
Picturesque America, 1874 by Harry Fenn
The Annie - First Vessel on Yellowstone Lake
The Annie, First boat on Yellowstone Lake, F.V. Hayden Yellowstone

The first documented boat to ply the waters of Yellowstone Lake was the Annie, fabricated by members of the 1871 F.V. Hayden Expedition.  The small craft sailed to Stevenson Island on July 29 of that year.  Hiram M. Chittenden, in his 1895 book “The Yellowstone National Park”, described the occasion:  "The first boat on the Yellowstone Lake was a small canvas craft 12 feet long by 3-1/2 feet wide.  Dr. Hayden records that it was christened The Annie, by Mr. Stevenson, in compliment to Miss Anna L. Dawes, the amiable daughter of Hon.  H.L. Dawes.” The persons in the boat are James Stevenson and Henry W. Elliot

Left Top:  Woodcut of The Annie.

from Picturesque America, 1874

Left Bottom:  The Annie, 

Wm. H. Jackson Photo, 1871. Library of Congress #95514177

The Annie, First boat on Yellowstone Lake, F.V. Hayden Yellowstone

Dr. F.V Hayden described the day in a report published by the Chicago Tribune, 4Oct1871:

“It lay before us like a beautiful mirror, its surface reflecting the sunlight with dazzling brilliancy . . . We had with us the frame of a boat, and covering this with canvas, launched the first craft that has ever floated on the bosom of Yellowstone Lake. Mr. James Stevenson with one of the members of the party, were the first to sail in it. They landed on one of the largest of the islands, and as mr. Stevenson was the first to put his foot upon it, we named it Stevenson's Island."

There are early reports of a Canadian trapper by the name of Henri Le Bleau, or Louis Bleau, who built a small raft and sailed to Stevenson Island, but these cannot be wholly verified. The story is noted by Helen G. Sharman in her, "The Cave on the Yellowstone, or Early Life in the Rockies,” published 1902.

Eugene Sayre Topping and The Sallie

1874 is the next year in which a boat appears on the waters of Yellowstone Lake.  Eugene Sayre Topping, in his 1883 history “Chronicles of the Yellowstone,” describes the event:

 "In June of this year [1874] Frank Williams and E.S. Topping, furnished with a whipsaw, canvas, and rigging, went up the Yellowstone to its lake.  There they sawed out lumber to build a row boat, and a yacht, which they rigged in sloop form.  They launched the latter on the twentieth of July . . . They advertised that the first lady to come up should have the privilege of naming the yacht. Two parties from Bozeman, each having a lady, came in at nearly the same time. These ladies, Mrs. W.H. Tracy and Mrs. Arch Graham, were each named Sarah, and they compromised by naming the yacht Sallie, and took a cruise in commemoration of the event."

Right:  The Sallie on Yellowstone Lake. At front is Frank Williams, with E.S. Topping at the rear. The "Sarahs" are seated with their husbands and two other men.

Photo by Joshua Crissman.

The Sallie, ES Topping, Yellowstone sailboat
The Sallie, Sailboat Yellowstone Lake, ES Topping

The Helena newspaper described the occasion a bit more picturesque, “The way the boat came by its name was this: Mr. Topping advertised that the first lady who sailed therein should have the naming of it. It so chanced, however, that two of Bozeman's most plucky ladies came for a ride at the same lime. It further chanced that both ladies were named Sarah, so the differences between them were split and they called it “Sallie," which name Mr. Topping gallantly accepted, and forthwith painted the same on the boat's end.”

Left:  The Sallie on Yellowstone Lake. Stereoview produced by W.I. Marshall from Joshua Crissman's original photo.

The two men had been issued a permit to operate boats on the lake in1874. In May 1875, Frank Williams drowned in the Yellowstone River near the current city of Livingston Mont. Topping and another man constructed a cabin and boat dock at Topping Point, west of the Lake Outlet. They built two boats, one called the Topping and the other the Naiad Queen. In Greek mythology, the Naiads were a type of female spirit, or nymph, presiding over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water. He operated on the lake for about three summers, and in the fall 1876 joined other Montanans in the gold rush in the Black Hills, Dakota Territory. The Topping boat was reportedly dismantled and abandoned in 1876, and the fate of the Naiad is unknown.

T.E. Hofer and the Explorer

Having some experience with sailboats on Long Island Sound, Thomas Elwood “Uncle Billie” Hofer and his cousin decided to build a boat and during the winter of 1879-80 gathered up tools and materials. During the summer of 1880 he stayed in E.S. Topping's old cabin and began construction of his “Sharpie," whip-sawing his lumber in the same pit that Topping had used. He ended up with a sailboat 20' long, 6' wide and 2-1/2' deep which they named it the Explorer. Park Supt. Philetus Norris used it in 1880 to circumnavigate Yellowstone Lake, and determined that there would be “…little danger attending trips around the fingers, thumb, and palm of the lake…” Although reportedly Norris wrecked the boat near Topping Point on his return.

According to Scott Herring in his "Yellowstone's Lost Legend" about Billy Hofer, the men built an un-named second boat for William Pickett that was 30-35' long. The craft apparently carried 8 men without an issue. It was used for several years, until unattended one day, it made the ride down the Yellowstone River by itself to float over Yellowstone Falls to its doom.

Uncle Billy Hofer, T.E. Hofer, Elwood Hofer

T.E. Hofer at his cabin near Gardiner, ca1880. He was born around 1849.

Self-portrait, courtesy Brigham Young Univ., Ut.

From the Helena Independent Record, 12Sep1880:

“The Hofer Bros have put a strong and safe sail boat on the Yellowstone lake, in which, for a consideration the tourist may enjoy a ride on that beautiful sheet of water.”

U.S. Geological Survey Boats in 1885

There were two government boats on the lake in 1885. The second was the US Pinafore, a small craft tested on Swan Lake by Daniel Kingman of the US Army Corps of Engineers before being used on Yellowstone Lake. It was built by Road Foreman E.L. Lamartine and floated on Swan Lake Aug. 22, 1885. Others aboard the craft included Mrs. Lamartine, Jennie and Mary Henderson, and two others. After its trial run, the vessel was hauled to Yellowstone Lake for use by Kingman and his men on Yellowstone lake. The Pinafore seems not to appear again in the records after its trial run. August 22, 1885).

The first boat was another USGS craft that has as yet remained un-named. The story of its fate is below:

On Sept. 5, 1885, USGS surveyors M.D. Scott, Amos Scott, E.C. Quackenbush, and J.H.. Renshaw were sailing the craft  on Yellowstone lake when a sudden storm came up. About 100 yards from shore, the boat was suddenly struck by lightning, which knocked all of the men unconscious. Upon awakening, they found M.D. Scott dead after being struck through the head, and a hole burned through the bottom of the craft. The others made it safely back to shore and buried Scott on a bench close to the lake. According to the Butte Weekly Miner on Sept 26, 1885, “the father and two brothers of the deceased stated that they were on the way to Bozeman to recover the remains and convey them to the old home for final interment.” Their home was reportedly in Illinois. Renshaw wrote a letter published in the Bozeman Weekly Chronicle on 16Sep1885 describing the event:


    I have to inform you of the death ot your friend, M. D. Scott, under the following circumstance. On the afternoon of Sept. 5th he, with myself, Mr. E. C. Quackenbush, and Mr. Amos Scott, were out sailing on the Yellowstone lake, when there came up a sudden thunder shower and our boat was struck by lightning. We were all stunned, remaining unconscious for some time.

    When we regained consciousness we found poor Dick dead, he evidently having been killed instantly. The bolt had struck the top of his head, passing down over his breast and left side, tearing his clothing into shreds, then on down to his feet and out through the bottom of the boat.

    Upon recovering I found my right arm partially paralyzed and slightly burned, but otherwise I was not injured; the other two gentlemen escaping without any physical injury except the natural shock of the nervous system. Fortunately we were close to the land, so with a few pulls with the oars we were able to reach the shore and escape the rapidly filling boat.

    We buried Dick yesterday afternoon on a bench near the lake, overlooking the scene of his tragic death and of his last faithful services. Will you be kind enough to inform his friend Mr. Yerkes, of the Bozeman Chronicle, that the circumstances of his death may be made public.

Very Respectfully,

Jno. H. Renshaw..

Ela C. Waters  -  The Zillah and The EC Waters

E.C. Waters came to the park in 1887 with E. C. Culver from Billings, where Waters was a businessman with interests in the Headquarters Hotel. He became general manager of the Yellowstone Park Association hotels in 1887, serving until 1890 when he was removed from that position. YPA was granted a lease to operate boats on the Yellowstone Lake in 1891 and allowed Waters to manage the new boat/ferry operation. Around that time a new road was being built over Craig Pass from Old Faithful to West Thumb.  A ferry service would eliminate the tedious and dusty ride from the Thumb Lunch Station to the Lake Hotel and the "The Zillah" was put into service for that purpose. Waters built a house and boathouse in front of Lake Hotel that first year.

E.C. Waters, Yellowstone Lake residence
yellowstone park boat company, Yellowstone Lake boat store
E.C Waters, Yellowstone boats, e.c. waters steamer

Top Right:  Ela C. Waters, undated. NPS photo

Bottom Left:  E.C. Waters residence, undated.

YNP #199718-277

Bottom Right:  YP Boat Co. office and store, ca1917.

YNP #199718-278

Waters was not a particularly well respected personage or businessman and was apparently not in good favor with park or Interior officials. He was `encouraged’ to leave the park in 1907 by the army.  According to Bartlett’s “Yellowstone – A Wilderness Besieged,” a notice was posted by Supt. Gen. Young stating that, “E.C. Waters, President of the Yellowstone Lake Boat Company, having rendered himself obnoxious during the 1907 season, is…debarred from the park and will not be allowed to return without permission.”

In 1907, Tom Hofer and his T.E. Hofer Boat Co. took over the contract upon Waters’ exit. The Zillah was in service from West Thumb to Lake Hotel until around 1909-10 when Hofer brought in the new ship “Jean D,” and replaced the Zillah for the ferry service.

The Zillah

 The Ulysses, was built in 1884, either in La Crosse or Iowa, sources seem to differ. Col. Wm McCrory had the boat built to provide service on Lake Minnetonka in eastern Minnesota. His railroad lines extended to Excelsior and Minnetonka Beach on the lake. The boat sections were shipped to the lake and assembled on site. Unfortunately her draft was 3', a bit too much for the shallow shoreline. It also tended to list a bit a full speed (16mph). 

    The steamer was purchased in 1888 by Dr. Kenedy and Howard Trumbull, who served as captain, and renamed her the Clyde. Due to her unsuitable draft, it was put up for sale and purchased  in 1889 by Charles Gibson, owner of the Yellowstone Park Association. The ship was brought from Michigan to Yellowstone in segments in 1891.  The steel-hulled, 40-ton steamer was acquired to provide tourist transportation on Yellowstone Lake. It was 81’ with a 14’ beam, and could carry 120 passengers and crew.

    An article at right from the Gardiner Wonderland on 21Sep1905 described the tedious process of getting it to Yellowstone Lake.

The Zillah’ was assembled on site by Amos Shaw (of the Shaw & Powell Camping Co) to provide ferry service from West Thumb to Lake Hotel. It was an interesting alternative to the somewhat bland stagecoach ride from Thumb to Lake. E.C. Waters would pay the stagecoach drivers fifty cents for each passenger the driver convinced to take the ferry, and then charged passengers $3.00 for the boat ride.

The Zillah made its first run on June 22, 1891 with a crew of government road workers.   Shaw captained the boat for the 1891-92 seasons. Waters bought the boat company from Yellowstone Park Association in 1897, and obtained a 10-year lease from Interior to operate the ferry  The ship operated on the lake for about 20 years, but had deteriorated over time and was replaced by the Jean D around 1910. The Zillah sat at the Lake boathouse until at least 1922, and probably later.

Right:  The Zillah and Lake Hotel.

[Haynes Double Oval postcard, ca1907]

Zillah at the dock in front of Lake Hotel (not shown) At center is the Waters residence.  [Haynes photo, Mont. Hist Soc. #10774]

The Zillah, Yellowstone Lake boat

Zillah at Dot Island. Wm. H. Rau glass slide

The Zillah, Yellowstone Lake boat
The Zillah, E.C. Waters boat
The Zillah, Yellowstone Lake boat, Lake Hotel Haynes Double-Oval

The final deposition of the Zillah remains unknown. Some sources have claimed that the ship was scuttled in the Lake somewhere off the coast from Lake Hotel. However, the Submerged Resources Survey conducted on the lake in 1996 was unable to find any remnants of the boat on the lake’s bottom.  Park Historian Aubrey Haines has commented that he saw a notice that the craft may have been cut up and sold for scrap in 1929. The mystery remains . . .

From the Jackson Hole News, July 22, 1971:

    Del Jenkins, former stagecoach driver in the park, recalls the days when the steamship [Zillah] was in use. He was driving four-horse stages in 1898 and often let off passengers to make the easier ride by steamship, instead of the longer stagecoach route around the lakeshore.

    "The owner of the boat used to pay me 50 cents a head for bringing them to the boat," he said, "and I was mighty glad to get rid of the dudes. It made the stagecoach a lot lighter." The route across the Lake to Thumb was only about 15 miles by boat, and a lot longer and rougher by the road.

    "It was wonderful for the horses," recalled Del, "but a lot of people didn't want to go on the boat 'cause it cost an extra three dollars." Del thinks the good ship Zillah ran about 10 years. Then someone thought they would get rich quick and built a bigger one to hold 500 passengers [The EC Waters]. The built it all in front of the Lake Hotel but the park would never approve the passenger load and it was never licensed."

The EC Waters


With the increase of tourist trade by the early 1900s, the deteriorating Zillah, and fears of competition, E.C. Waters decided to expand his boat operations. Waters brought plans and materials for a 140’ by 30’ wooden hulled steamship to Yellowstone Lake in 1904. The new vessel, larger than Zillah, was constructed and launched at the Lake docks boathouse in 1905. Accounts vary on its size, but range from 125-140’ long and 25-30’ beam, capable of carrying 400-500 passengers.


It was used part of the 1905 season, but the regulators, the U.S. Steamship Navigation Service, refused a permit for the 500-passenger capacity that Waters demanded. Consequently, it was supposedly never used again and sat beached on a protected cove on the east side of Stevenson Island for many years. The cove was thought safe from the winter lake ice, but in 1921, strong winds and the ice breakup pushed the boat up onto the beach. Some of the machinery was removed around 1926 and the boiler unit was used to help heat Lake Hotel for some 46 years. Reportedly some Lake area winterkeepers set fire to the aging craft in 1930. Some of the wreckage remains to this day.

E.C. Waters Boat

Left:  Rare photo of the EC Waters under construction at Yellowstone Lake. 

[Author's Digital Collection]

Right:  Steamboats Zillah in front, EC Waters at rear.

Note elk antlers atop the Zillah.

[ Barkalow #6898 postcard, advertising Union Pacific RR]

E.C. Waters Boat, Zillah

Steamer E.C. Waters on the lake.

[Tanner Souvenir Co. postcard]

E.C. Waters Steamer

Steamer E.C. Waters wreck at Stevenson Island. Note holes in hull, where equipment apparently been removed.

E.C. Waters Boat, Stevenson Island

Excerpts from an article in the Gardiner Wonderland, 21Sep1905


Amid Stirring enthusiasm the New Boat “E.C. Waters” Was Launched on Monday Morning Upon Yellowstone Lake

“The new boat, "E.C. Waters," was launched upon the beautiful Yellowstone Lake on Monday morning at exactly 8:45 o'clock after the reading of a short address by F.D. Geiger, editor of Wonderland, which had been previously prepared by the Hon. John T. Smith of Livingston.  The new boat slipped from its moorings into the deep lake with great ease and comfort and looked perfectly at home upon the deep blue waters of the highest lake in the whole world . . . A crowd of about 300 people witnessed the launching of the new boat and all expressed themselves well pleased with their trip to the lake to witness and listen to the ceremonies at the launching of the greatest boat the northwest ever had. . . .The christening of the boat was done by Miss Edna Waters immediately after the conclusion of the launching ceremonies . . . At the word she smashed a large bottle of champagne over the bow of the new boat and sent it joyfully out into the deep blue water, at the same time giving it the name that will henceforth for ages to come revere the name of the man who has been the cause of its existence, and who will pass into history as one of the west's greatest promoters. In building the new boat Mr. Waters has placed into her hold the best machinery obtainable. He has built the new boat at the total cost of nearly $65,000, almost a fortune.”    

M.B. Waters, Yellowstone china
M.B. Waters, Yellowstone china
M.B. Waters, Yellowstone china

Curios from the Waters Boat Company


The company sold a collection of curios in the office/store. Among those included decorative plates with scenes from the Lake. Two image designs are known of at this point in time = one of a man standing in the tres looking at the Zillah sailing on the lake. The other depicts a woman and man, perhaps E.C. Waters & his wife, fishing in the famous "Fishing Cone." There are various styles of plates, but the images seem to remain the same. Even an ash tray with the Fishing Cone was available. All had a trademark label on the bottom, to the effect of "Made in Germany for M.B. Waters, Yellowstone Park, Wyo." The Wheelock company was  a United States distributer of decorative china, while the manufacturer was in Dresden. The "M.B." no doubt stands for "Martha Bustus" Waters, Ela's wife. Perhaps she was in charge of the curio department.

According to Thousand Islands Life website, "Wheelock was not the manufacturer of souvenir china, as some believe, but the importer. Because Germany and Austria had the raw material to produce high quality hard paste porcelain, those two countries were the major source of souvenir china. The procedure was as follows. The scenes or pictures were selected in the area where they were to be sold, usually from postcards. They were then sent to Europe for processing. The next step was to make a transfer print of the picture which was then applied to the china. Initially the pictures were black and white but later many were hand colored at factories. Eventually transfer prints were done in color eliminating the step of coloring by hand."

A search of internet auctions reveals Wheelock china made for H.E. Klamer's General Store and other businesses selling custom souvenir china in or around Yellowstone.

The T.E. Hofer Boat Company

Thomas Elwood "Billy" Hofer came out West in 1872, spending five years in the Black Hills and Colorado. He arrived in the Yellowstone area in 1877 and in 1878 began guiding and outfitting tourist and hunting parties.  He and his brother built a 20’ sailboat called the Explorer in 1880. An ad in the Bozeman Avant-Courier (8/19/1880) described it as "strong and safe . .  [with]  A competent man in charge, who will, at all proper times, be ready to accommodate all who desire to take pleasure excursions." He and his brother (or cousin) also built a second boat as described in a previous section.

One of Billy Hofer's boats at a dock, ca1908

[Campbell's Yellowstone Guide, 1909]

Billy Hofer boats, T.E. Hofer, Yellowstone Hofer
Billy Hofer boats, T.E. Hofer, Yellowstone Hofer
Jean D Yellowstone, Billy Hofer boats, T.E. Hofer, Yellowstone Hofer

In the intervening year, Billy Hofer concentrated on his guiding, hunting, photography and trapping skills. Seeing an opportunity after E.C. Waters was ingraciously escorted from Yellowstone, he received a 10-year lease on Nov. 12, 1907. He was permitted o operate up to 10 power launches and 50 rowboats and dories on Yellowstone Lake, mostly purchased from the Truscott Lake Boat Company of St. Joseph, Michigan. He formed the T.E. Hofer Boat Co. the following year, buying out the E.C. Waters operation. Articles of incorporation were filed in March of 1908, and included three directors: Hofer, W.A. Hall, and C.N. Sargent, businessmen from Gardiner. His company also operated the ferry service with the ‘Zillah’ from West Thumb to Lake Hotel. It has been said that his boats carried odd names with unknown origins such as: Busha, Etcedecasher, Ocotta, Lockpitsa, Espear, Esportutse, Wood Tuk Colle, Bedupa, and Sata.

He also provided fishing boats for hire to visitors, and operated a small store that sold or rented fishing tackle and gear, grain, hay, and other basic tourist supplies. Financing for the buyout of the E.C. Waters business and operation of the company was obtained from Harry Child of Yellowstone Park Association and the railroad companies. Hofer apparently was not a great businessman, and by 1910 the company was failing, despite carrying close to 6000 tourists on his launches that year. Sensing an opportunity, Child used his financial interests to squeeze Hofer out of business. Child took over Hofer's operation and created the Yellowstone Park Boat Company the following year. The park transportation system became motorized in 1917 and the new auto stages traversed the road from West Thumb to Lake Hotel quicker and more comfortably, making the ferry service unnecessary.

Left Top:  "Boat Landing Near Lake Hotel." Depiction of two of Hofer's motor launches for tours and fishing.  [Haynes postcard No. 168, ca1910]

Left Bottom:  Glass slide of the Jean D tour boat, purchased ca1909.

"The Jean D"

This new gasoline launch was placed into service in 1909-1910 by Tom Hofer.  The ship was twin-screw, 120hp and featured an enclosed hardtop rear deck with storm windows. The capacity was 150 passengers.  It was the only one of the launches with an easy name - the others was blessed with obscure names. A brochure ca1912, stated that the Jean D. left Lake Hotel every morning at 8:30am, arriving at West Thumb at 10:30am. The return trip began at 1:00pm and docked at Lake Hotel at 3:00pm.

Jean D Yellowstone, Billy Hofer boats, T.E. Hofer, Yellowstone Hofer
Jean D Yellowstone, Billy Hofer boats, T.E. Hofer, Yellowstone Hofer

Top Right: Jean D at West Thumb. [YNP #40348]

Bottom Left:  Newspaper article about Hofer's boat operation. 

[Evening Star, Wash. DC, 22Aug1909]

Bottom Right:  "The Steamer at the Thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

[Stereo Travel Co. stereoview, ca1912]

Jean D Yellowstone, Billy Hofer boats, T.E. Hofer, Yellowstone Hofer
Brief Notes on Early Boat Captains

Amos Shaw, was raised in Michigan and had sailed on the Great Lakes prior to his arrival in Montana in 1890. He supervised the construction of the Zillah at Lake and captained the ship from about 1891-1893. E.C. Waters, who also grew up in Michigan, is not known to have had any significant nautical experience prior to adventures at Yellowstone.


John Hepburn was a captain of the Zillah from about 1891 to 1909. He homesteaded land south of Emigrant, Mt., and was a prominent rancher by 1921.  He remained in Paradise Valley until his death in 1959.

Capt. Royal O. Bigford, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (no doubt a neighbor of sorts to Waters), reportedly was a captain for eight seasons with E.C. Waters, including the seasons 1906-07.  He also captained his own boat the "Laura May" on Lake Winnebago (near Fond du Lac) and also another boat called the "O'kipoji." Bigford passed away in early March of 1939.

zillah, Yellowstone boat, yellowstone ferry, yellowstone steamer

The Zillah with Capt. Amos Shaw at the helm. The Shaw family was later involved with the Shaw & Powell Camping Co.

[Montana Standard, Butte, 10Sep1972]

At Livingston, the gateway to the Yellowstone Park, is found one of the prettiest western depots, and an incident transpired here which shows how small our country is and the surprises it has in store. It was the meeting with Captain Bigford. of Fond du Lac, and his crew of ten men who had just finished the season’s work in the park and were thus far on their trip to their homes in Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. Captain Bigford had charge of the steamers on the lake last season, and will probably occupy the same position the coming year.

[The Gazette (Stevens Point, WI), Feb. 6, 1907]

Yellowstone Park Boat Company

This company was created by H.W. Child, Wm. Nichols, and E.C. Day on May 27, 1911 after taking over the T.E. Hofer Boat Co. in 1910. Child, as was his usual practice, obtained financing from the NW Improvement Co. (subsidiary of NPRR) to buy the operation. The new company was permitted to operate motor boats, power launches, rowboats and dories. Dock sites were obtained at Lake Hotel and West Thumb, along with a 10-year lease in 1913. They operated the ferry until 1917 when the motorized bus fleet made the ferry unnecessary and unprofitable. The Zillah was dry-docked until 1926 when it was stripped and sold for salvage. A boathouse was built in 1928 just below the Fishing Bridge for canoe,rowboat and tackle rentals. The following year a 25' Cris-Craft Runabout was purchased.


Wm. Nichols became head of the firm in 1931 upon the death of Harry Child. The company continued to offer sightseeing trips and in the 1920’s added speedboats for hire and provided trips to Stevenson Island for fish fries. The speedboats AdelaideAdelaide II, and Marion were placed in service in the early 1930s and carried about 11 passengers. However, the Adelaide suffered an engine explosion in August 1937. Luckily no one was injured and the boat managed to limp back the 200’ to the shore. Deemed not salvageable, she was sunk in the lake in September. Other boats were acquired during this era, but documentation is scant. The YP Boat Co. operated until 1936 when it was merged into the Yellowstone Park Co. Other boats were acquired during this era, but documentation is scant.

Right Top: One of the Adelaide speedboats. There were at least two Adelaide boats in the 1920-1930s.  YNP #8743]

Right Bottom:  Another of the Adelaide speedboats.  [YNP #124208]

Yellowstone Park Boat Co., The Adelaide
Yellowstone Park Boat Co., The Adelaide

  From a 1936 National Park Service brochure:

“Speed boats, launches, rowboats, and fishing tackle may be rented from the Yellowstone Park Boat Co. Launches, including the use of fishing tackle, cost $3.50 an hour. Half-hour speed-boat trips on Yellowstone Lake will be made for $1 a person. You can rent a rod, reel, and landing net for 50 cents a day. A boat trip, including fishing and fish fry at Stevenson Island, is a popular feature.”

Three Cris-Craft boats were purchased in 1938 - 19’ and 25’ Runabout speedboats, and a 37’ partly-enclosed Cruiser. The Osprey, a 30’ Cris-Craft Seaskiff with twin 230hp Mercury inboard engines was launched in 1957. The Miss Yellowstone, a 30’ Inland Laker was acquired in 1967. The following year the Lake Queen set sail, a 46-passenger boat that was claimed to be the largest boat on the lake since the E.C. Waters. TWA Services (who took over the YP Co.) acquired the Anna in 1982, a 35’ Holiday Mansions Super Barracuda. It was a houseboat that could sleep 8-10 people. In 1989 the Osprey, Miss Yellowstone, and Anna were put on the auction block and sold. The Lake Queen II was purchased in 1994 from Munson Manufacturing Co. It could seat 49 passengers and was powered by three Mercruiser Bravo 7.3L I/O engines.

For Additional information on the early boats in Yellowstone, see the "Yellowstone Lake Submerged Resources Survey"  

Yellowstone Fishing Bridge, Fishing Bridge boat dock
West Thumb boathouse
Lake Hotel boat house, Lake Hotel boat dock

Left: Fishing Bridge and the Boat House to the left, with floating dock and canoe/rowboat & tackle rentals, ca1937.  Built in 1935, it replaced an earlier structure.  [Haynes postcard #37763]

Center:  Boat House at West Thumb, 1951.  [YNP #51-423]

Right:  Boat House at the lake in front of Lake Hotel, ca1953.  [Haynes postcard 53K393

Yellowstone Lake Queen

Left:  The Lake Queen in 1987.  [Jackson Hole Courier, 26Aug1987]

Bottom:  The Lake Queen II, undated  [YNP Jim Peaco photo]

Yellowstone Lake Queen II
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