S.S. Shasta: Ghost of the Portland RiverfrontS.S.
Shasta: Ghost of the Portland Riverfront
The Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard was in the middle
of building the steam-powered ferries Shasta, Yosemite and
San Mateo for the Six Minute Ferry Company in 1922 when the
ferry line abruptly went bankrupt. Southern Pacific Railway
purchased the ferries and put them to work for their well-
established ferry service across San Francisco Bay. The ferries
worked until 1939 when the bridges killed the business.
The sisters Shasta and San Mateo were purchased by
PSN in 1941 and b rought to Puget Sound. The Yosemite had
been purchased by a South American company and taken to
Argentina, where after a some years in service it was wrecked,
turned into a barge for a time and finally scrapped.
The Shasta went to work on various routes on the Sound.
1945 had her on the Seattle-Manchester route. Starting in
1946 and through 1947 the steamer was put to work on the
Winslow-Seattle run alongside the Kehloken. The summer of
1950 found the Shasta working as the spare boat on the
After the State took over ferry operations, the ferry again
saw limited service, working alongside her sister San Mateo on
the Vashon run between 1952-54. The Shasta went into lay-up
from September of 1954 until May of 1957. In 1957 the ferry
was called into service for the summer season, working the
Kingston route with the Nisqually.
Unfortunately for the Shasta,it had a rather bad habit of
belching out a black cloud of oil smoke from her 47-foot high
smokestack. Even in 1958 this wasn't environmentally
acceptable, and the ferry was retired after the 1958 summer
season. With the new Klahowya and Tillikum in service, the
Shasta was no longer needed.
The Shasta sold and briefly worked for a time running up
and down the Columbia River as the Centennial Queen,
celebrating the State of Oregon's 100th year as a statehood,
still leaving behind that characteristic cloud of oil smoke.
Before long though, her new owner couldn't make any money
and sold her. The ferry changed owners was converted into a
As the e River Queen, the old Shasta was moored along
the banks of the river in downtown Portland for decades, a
highly successful venue.
Losing her moorage, the River Queen restaurant closed
in 1995. On the register for historical vessels/landmarks, the
Shasta was moved to St. Helens Oregon. At last report she
was for sale and looking for someone to redevelop her.
Moored today in Goble Oregon, the ferry appears to be
waiting for someone to rescue her still,as there has been no
effort to save the old San Francisco steamer yet.
Official Number: 222598 Radio call letters: WH6754 Built: San Francisco, CA, 1922. Length: 216' 7" Beam: 63' 8"" Draft: 12' Auto Deck Clearance: 11' 5" Speed: 13 knots
Horsepower: 1200 Propulsion: Steam Autos: 55 Passengers: 468 Gross Tonnage: 919
Name Translation: Shasta is taken from the mountain of the same name in northern California.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Limbo. Still moored on the Columbia, with nothing being done to her.
The Shasta departs Kingston in the 1950's, leaving her trademark trail of black smoke. Williamson photo, courtesy of MOHAI. Color by Nevermore Images
At top, the River Queen Restaurant in Portland, 1971. She was a familiar sight for thousands crossing
the river into town. Middle, the empty, abandoned dining room, showing the stained glass clearstory
windows. Above, as the Shasta looked in 2009. Author's collection.