Heritage Week: Capt. Robert Sanderson — an Arrow Lakes pioneer

Captain Robert Sanderson aboard the steamer Marion, which was in service from 1888 to 1897, when it was overhauled and sold. - Photo contributed by Nakusp & District Museum
Captain Robert Sanderson aboard the steamer Marion, which was in service from 1888 to 1897, when it was overhauled and sold.
— image credit: Photo contributed by Nakusp & District Museum

By Sharon Montgomery, Nakusp & District Museum

The theme this year for Heritage Week is Heritage Afloat, bringing attention to the mighty sternwheelers that plied the Arrow Lakes in days gone by.

This is the story of the first sternwheelers to operate on the Arrow Lakes. Captain Robert Sanderson originally came to B.C. to build bridges and a railway for Revelstoke. He was also involved in many other adventures.

Captain Sanderson was the owner, operator and builder of the boat called the Dandy Fat, which was operated by two Sinixt Natives. He also built and ran three steamers — the SS Illecillewaet, the SS Kootenai and the SS Lytton.

In 1890, Capt. Sanderson purchased 400 acres of land at Halcyon Hot Springs and in 1894 he built the Halcyon Hotel that burned down in 1955.

Capt. Sanderson filed a claim on a lime outcropping at Pingston Creek, across the lake from St. Leon. A kiln was built, the lime mined and soon the Trail smelter was freighting 100 tons a day on CPR boats to its plant.

He died in 1924 at the age of 76. He was granted his only wish — to be buried up at Halcyon.

He was truly the pioneer of steamships on the Arrow Lakes.


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