SNOCRUISE will drive your snowmobile for you, if we have to cross a road way.

SNOCRUISE will check with you often, to make sure your gear and your snowmobile is functioning properly.

SNOCRUISE will stop often if you wish, so you can communicate with your friends and family!

SNOCRUISE is there when you get stuck! Getting stuck  is half the fun!

SNOCRUISE is always there at just the right time to take some snaps for you that you can share with the world!

If your feeling like you are in over your head just wave! SNOCRUISE is there to help!

always, when ever possible, tries to end our day with a nice Sunset .

The Marquis remains, Prince Albert 1918

The Northcote hardware after the ship being burned to the ground by a priest

A model of the Northcote in the MooseJaw Museum


















































































































































































We Ride Back Into Saskatchewan History

On Saturday March the 21, 2009 We embarked on a ride in the prime of winter. We had a couple of goals in mind.  It turns out it isn't, but we thought this was going to be the last ride of the season because of the weatherman's endless call to lift some peoples spirits with the only cure known........... great warm weather in the up coming days, [however always in style, it seems that being vertical on two, just isn't good enough for some people!] Some times you just never know how long the snowy conditions will last, and when the opportunity arises, away you go! So having just read the book PRAIRIE WARSHIPS River Navigation in the Northwest Rebellion by Gordon E. Tolton, our primary objectives was to of course have a  fantastic ride, and was also to look for the intersection of the Sturgeon, (Shell) and the North Branch.  Although we cross over both the Shell and the Sturgeon River Valleys many miles to the west from here when we ride cross country to Emma Lake. We cross them prior to the rivers joining, thus the various maps labeling  the resulting river either the Shell  or the Sturgeon River.  It's documented in this terrific book, that a couple of paddlewheel steamboats were dry docked here, where they meet the North Branch, for the majority of 1884 season, due to a number of economic and ergonomic reasons. It was in the spring of 1885, March 26th that there was a  Louis Riel/Mtis settler up rising, and shoot out near the town of  Duck Lake with the RNWMP. (*1)   As a result all 7 of the paddle wheeler steam ships available on the North Branch and South Branch (*2),  were hired by the Canadian Government to participate in the Canadian Army's retaliation to the North-West Rebellion of 1875. Incredibly this appeared to be a financial windfall for the owners of steam ships whose season was looking otherwise pretty bleak. Three ships in the Nisbet Forest area included the North West (3) on Prince Albert's river
banks,  the
Manitoba (4) and the Marquis (5) which were dry docked at the mouth of the Sturgeon  for quite some time in the care of Captain Julian Dougall. So that April 1885 Captain Dougall put together a team of men who would get the ships ready to sail. Unfortunately both ships were still in water to shallow to float, further compounded by the fact that their rudders were frozen down in the muddy river bottom. Then finally one Saturday night/Sunday morning April 9, the Sturgeon River rose 4 feet overnight as the spring thaw occurred. Flooding Captain Dougall's cabin on the shore to the top of his bed's legs! Eventually the Marquis although partly floated had some repairable damage and also had to have its 4 rudders cut off, freeing it from the frozen mud, which were then reconstructed by carpenters before it could make a trial run into Prince Albert on April 23 1885.  It's interesting to note that the Manitoba was repaired and refloated after a broadside crash with the International (*6)  that sunk her in a minute on the Red River south of Winnipeg . More bad luck for the Manitoba occurred when the competition purchased her for $9,446.00 through a receiver, for bad dept one year later on April 26, 1876! In 1880 the Manitoba was used on the Assiniboine River servicing prime agriculture land with Winnipeg.

In 1882 3 sternwheelers the new Marquis, the new North West, and the Manitoba were winched up the Grand Rapids, severe 2 mile stretch of rapids that geographically separated the lake side wheel deep water boats from the Saskatchewan River stern wheel flat bottomed boats. By May the 1st, the Marquis was steaming down the North Branch to the forks , then headed south up the South Branch, it's mission to join the Northcote (*7)  at Batoche. The Marquis  met  the Northcote at the current Hudson Bay Fur trade fort, north of the village St. Laurent Grandin the best I can tell would be on the river between McKenzie Crossing and Sugar Island. The Marquis had brought RNWMP. and medics from Prince Albert,  after a bout of sandbar and more rudder trouble. Then they continued together back to the battle of Batoche with the beaten  but hastily patched up Northcote. The Marquis was named after the new Governor General the Marquis of Lorne [1847-1914] who visited the area with his consort,  who were touring through the area a year earlier in August 1881 on there way to the North West Territories. (The Marquis of Lorne's wife the  Princess Louise Caroline Alberta[1848-1939], daughter of  the Queen Victoria, didn't make the trip as she was recuperating from a number of incidents that effected her health for years after, the worst being dragged under an overturned horse drawn sleigh in Ottawa in the winter and just 3 months later, a head on train wreck when the Governor Generals train collided with the Montreal-Ottawa express at Montebello Quebec. Plus there was the yacht crash with another boat on the St. Lawrence River.)
This Marquis of Lorne's group of  travelers had a party in the
Northcote's state room while docked in Prince Albert, then  transferred to the Steamship Lily (*8) at Fort Carlton, likely tied up at the fort docking posts by the
Carlton crossing before traveling further up river. The Manitoba was built over winter 1874/1875 by the Merchant's International Steamboat Line [MISL] to compete with a gouging Hill-Kittson -Hudson Bay Company monopoly on shipping known as the Red River Transportation Company [RRTC]. Unfortunately the Manitoba did not survive the icy water that came down the Sturgeon River, an ice jamb towering 20 feet over her eventually tore the vessel apart and she was salvaged for parts. The boilers once salvaged were used in a number of sawmills over the years. I often wonder if old boilers about or near the forest could be related? The Manitoba was salvaged for about 10 days before W&WTC wrote off the rotting boat. All during the North West Rebellion and for years to come the skeletal remains of the Manitoba were visible just off the North Branch at the mouth of the Sturgeon.

It's interesting to note that several fur trade posts or forts, often more a secure reinforced house than a fort, much like everyone has today, a house with fairly secure locking windows and doors. Sturgeon Fort 1776-1780 reported as an independent British trade post on the North branch at the mouth of the Sturgeon River. Then others, North West Co. 1793-1795, Hudson's Bay Company date unknown, then another independent trader 1798-1805.

 (*1)  Royal North West Mounted Police, just commissioned by the Canadian Government., in the fall of 1874, who were formerly known as the NWMP.   

 (*2) This whole region of western Canada was known as Rupert's Land  which drained eventually into the Hudson's Bay. This whole region was awarded to The Hudson's Bay Company by the crown in 1670 then a negotiated return to the Dominion of Canada occurred in 1869.  The North and South Saskatchewan Rivers were referred to as the North Branch and the South Branch.  

   (*3)  The North West was built for the North West Navigation Company [NWNC] by John Irish from Moorhead in 1881.  She had a 200 foot Deck 33 foot beam and was equipped with a new design high efficiency steel fluted boilers that powered 24,115.2 cubic inch [2009.6 cubic foot] cylinders that moved it's 305 ton mass easily. Most amazingly the owners built her with a measly $27,000.00 budget that included 80 berths, a couple honeymoon suites and a $5000.00 grand piano in the Saloon. She was used until 1897, then a flash storm and flood  in 1899 swept her from her moorings into the concrete piers of a low level railway bridge on the North Branch at Edmonton.   

  (*4) The Manitoba cruised the Saskatchewan Rivers at a deck of 205 feet, a beam of 31 feet, it's twin cylinders built by the North Star Iron Works of Minneapolis that produced 29.2 HP and dry weighted 195 tons.

   (*5) The Marquis was built in 1882 for the Winnipeg & Western Transportation Company [W&WTC] by a Mr. Gregory. The white oak hull assembled on Bannatyne Street in Winnipeg . It was 201 feet long and had a beam of 33.5 feet, the vessel's engines were typical horizontal, but the latest super high pressure models made at Iowa Iron Works at Dubuque Iowa, in the newly formed U.S.A.  It had 2 cylinders With a bore and stroke of 19 inches by 6 feet and developed 3 times the power the Manitoba at 84 HP. This means that in laymen's terms this bad boy had an engine displacement of 40,807.44 cubic inches, or 3,400.62 cubic feet! That's a lot of cc's! She displaced 475 tons empty, 754 tons full and apparently could go 16 miles per hour!

 (*6)  The International launched in 1870, with salvaged hardware from the Freighter that was left abandoned in the southern Manitoba prairie, from a botched attempt to sail from the Mississippi, to the Red River during the high water spring flooding of 1859.   

  (*7)  The North-West Rebellion survivor the Northcote was 150'x28.5'x4.5' @ 291 tons/441 tons loaded. (It had 40HP engines salvaged from the SS Whatsitsname a 142 foot steamer quickly built by the Hudson's Bay Company, that they tried to put into service before it was completed or even named, it's non powered maiden voyage of 13 miles up stream from the Grand Rapids resulted in it's grounding and destruction on Aug. 2, 1872.) The Northcote was built for a total cost of $53,000.00. In service from  Aug 1,1874 to 1886 then left abandoned by it's owners it was burned by a priest, Father Belanger in 1905 at Cumberland House.          

  (*8)  A Scottish built iron hulled vessel the Lily was built in 1877 as a sister ship to the Northcote, but a boulder ripped an 8 foot hole in her hull half way between  Medicine Hat and the Bulls Forehead on the South Branch in an area the locals call the Drowning Ford, this very steep part of the river made salvage basically impossible.     

Saskatchewan River Steamboat Specifications

SS Northcote  1874-1905

150x 28.5x 4.5


40 hp

SS Lily           1877-1883  similar specs to the Northcote  


SS Manitoba   1874-1885


205x 31 195/   tons 29.2 hp  
SS Northwest  1881-1899 200x 33 305/   tons 84 hp $27,000.00
SS Marquis     1882- 201x 33.5 475/754 tons 84 HP  
SS Baroness   1883


174.5'x 202/320 tons   49 hp  
SS Alberta 100'x20' 86/150 tons 30 hp  
SS Sicamous   1914-1935 227.5'x 39' 995/1787 tons   $180,000.00 

NOTE: The SS Sicamous Specifications are provided for comparison purposes. The SS Sicamous was not used on Saskatchewan Rivers, but believe me following the link to see the pictures is worth your time.

This is a snap I took of an ill fated attempt to put a light paddle wheeler back on the North Branch in the 1990's.We came across it while riding in the 1996 Laird Poker Derby.

Still there in the winter of 1997 it's evident that the boat is being stripped.

A few photos I took of the Northcote's mechanical boilers and cylinders while on a snowmobile ride across Cumberland Lake to Cumberland House in 1997.

This shows some of the hardware that would connect the paddle wheel at the back.

SS Northcote

Northcote remains 1905.

SS Marquis

SS Alberta

More steam boat/snowmobile fun  09-08,

















Other links related to the Nisbet's History. Nisbet Forest and area  Snocruise rides with a  little mix of local history in pictures.