River Boat photograph collection, 1890s-1920s  PDF

Overview of the Collection

River Boat photograph collection
1890s-1920s (inclusive)
48 photographs
Collection Number
The River Boat photograph collection contains images of river boats on the Green, Colorado, and San Juan rivers in southern Utah.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections.
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
Telephone: 801-581-8863
Access Restrictions

Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Unpowered barges, rowboats, and skiffs were used on the Green, Colorado, and San Juan rivers (folder 1) from the 1860s on, but the first powered craft built to navigate the Green and Colorado Rivers between Green River and Moab, Utah, was the MAJOR POWELL, a round-bottom, steam-powered launch built in Illinois and shipped to Green River, Utah, by rail. Being underpowered, it was unsuccessful and was abandoned by 1894. Next was the UNDINE (folder 2), built by a Denver businessman, which in 1901 became was the first to actually make the upriver run from the confluence of the Green and Colorado to Moab, Utah. It was lost near there in an accident in the spring of 1902. The first truly successful craft was the WILMONT (folder 3) built by Edwin Wolverton in 1903. It served on the river hauling passengers and freight until its hull was damaged by ice in winter of 1908, after which the machinery was salvaged and the boat abandoned. Wolverton built and used several other similar craft until he left the area in 1912. Other craft on the river around the same time included Milton Oppenheimer's PADDY ROSS and a series of barges (folder 4). The most grandiloquent boat by far was the ill-fated CITY OF MOAB (folder 5), built at a cost of some $15,000 in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 1905. Fifty- five feet long, powered by two 30 horsepower gasoline engines, she was much too large for the shallow Green River, and after one attempt to reach the confluence with the Colorado, was tied up on the riverbank and left for the winter. Stripped of all her fancy cabins and converted to a steam powered stern-wheeler, the boat was renamed the CLIFF DWELLER (folder 6) in 1906, and another attempt made at a ferry service between Green River and Moab. This too was unsuccessful, and she was finally sold to a Salt Lake City businessman who renamed her the VISTA and used her as a tourist craft on the Great Salt Lake for many years. The only people to really be successful at hauling freight and passengers on the Colorado were the Baldwin brothers, owners of the Moab Garage Company (folder 7), who built and used a number of powered barges and scows in the 1920s.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Riverboats collection, P0063, contains black and white photographs of early river craft used on the Green and Colorado Rivers between the towns of Green River, Utah, and Moab, Utah. Also included are some photographs of freight boats used during the brief mining boom on the San Juan River, ferry boats, miscellaneous rowboats, and other riverboat-related images. This collection was received some years ago in the Special Collections department, but no records were kept of its provenance. In addition, when it was first processed the images were put in folders with no real relation to their chronology. Accordingly, in 2002, the collection was re-processed, and the images were rearranged in chronological order, and renumbered. Included in this box will be a copy of an article in the CANYON LEGACY, vol. 1 n. 5, "A Foolhardy Undertaking: Utah's Pioneer Steamboaters," which recounts the history of most of these craft. Descriptions or captions found on the image will be noted in quotes.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Utah RiverboatsReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 1

Container(s) Description Dates
San Juan River boats
  • 1: "Freight boats, San Juan River, Utah, Bluff City" 1892. Photo by Charles Goodman
  • 2: "Williams-Cahn placer mining dredge, mouth of Copper Canyon, San Juan River, 1894"
  • 3: "Hauling UNDINE to River at Green River City, Utah" November 1901
  • 4: Launch of UNDINE, November 1901
  • 5: UNDINE underway, November 1901
  • 6: UNDINE after striking submerged boulder, November 1901
  • 7: UNDINE near Moab, Utah, 1902
  • 8: Photograph of newspaper article about launching of UNDINE
  • 9-11: WILMONT on river
  • 12: "Green River. Wolverton's boat, WILMONT, near Wolverton's Ranch." Photo by W. Stark
WILMONT, PADDY ROSS, other boats
  • 13-15: Three images of the WILMONT, PADDY ROSS, and a barge named TURTLE all on the river together, probably taken about 1905
  • 16: CLIFF DWELLER, WILMONT, PADDY ROSS near Wolverton's Ranch, circa 1906
circa 1905-1906
  • 17-18: Launch of CITY OF MOAB, May 1905
  • 19-20: CITY OF MOAB on maiden voyage, May 1905
  • 21-23: CLIFF DWELLER under re-construction, 1906
  • 24: CLIFF DWELLER before re-construction, 1906
  • 25-26: CLIFF DWELLER underway, 1906
Moab Garage Company Boats
  • 27-37: Various barges and stern-wheel paddle craft used by the Moab Garage Co. on the Colorado River during the 1920s. Some are hauling freight, some are full of people. Most were taken near Moab, Utah
Miscellaneous River Craft
  • 38: Ferry across Green River near Green River Bridge
  • 39: River party camped on beach in Labyrinth Canyon, below Green River, Utah
  • 40: Freighting supplies to U.S. Reclamation Service drill crew at head of Cataract Canyon, 1914
  • 41-42: Group of men on unidentified boat
  • 43: Grand and Green Navigation Company launch on Colorado River near Moab, Utah, 1912
  • 44: Rowboat in ice near Green River, Utah
  • 45: Group of men in unidentified launch near Green River, Utah
  • 46: Rowboat near Green River, Utah
  • 47: Unidentified powerboat
  • 48: "Cap" Yokey
A Foolhardy Undertaking: Utah's Pioneer Steamboaters by Roy Webb
  • A Foolhardy Undertaking: Utah's Pioneer Steamboaters by Roy Webb. Article in Canyon Legacy, A Journal of the Dan O'Laurie Museum - Moab, Utah. Volume 1, Number 5. Spring, 1990

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • River boats--Utah--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)--Photographs
  • Green River (Wyo.-Utah)--Photographs
  • San Juan River (Colo.-Utah--)Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographic prints--1895-1910