For sale: a piece of history

·3 min read

Dec. 4—A well-known sternwheeler in this region recently popped up for sale on Facebook.

Steamboat Jean's current owner, Chris Jones, who lives near Portland, Ore., said the historic boat is up for grabs for $30,000, but prospective buyers must be serious, have transportation arranged and a place to moor the vessel.

"I'm quite fond of her," Jones said in a phone interview. "I'd love to find her a good home, but if people don't have money or a place to put her, we don't really have much to talk about."

Steamboat Jean was towed by tugboat out of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley in 2004, destined for the Columbia River and a makeover. An anonymous private developer purchased the vessel with grand plans that never came to fruition, Jones said, so he acquired it for his former Marine Service Specialities business.

"Now I'm disabled and retired, so anyway, here we are," said the 68-year-old riverboat captain, retired commercial diver and Navy veteran.

The Jean is sitting in the Multanomah channel off the Willamette River, near Scappoose, Ore. Jones said the boat had to be moved out of the northeast Portland area because of leasing issues.

Steamboat Jean, named for the daughter of a Crown Zellerbach executive, was built at Portland in 1938. The boat towed logs and pushed barges loaded with wood chips, paper products and other cargo along the Lower Columbia and Willamette rivers until its retirement in 1957.

The Jean was a fixture in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley for more than 28 years. The vessel was given to the city of Lewiston by Western Transportation Co. of Portland in the mid-70s, and the Idaho State Historical Society held the steamboat's title until the late riverboat captain, Elmer Earl, of Asotin, purchased it in 1994.

The sternwheeler was moored for years at Hells Gate State Park, then tied to the riverbank upstream from Asotin, and eventually moved to Asotin's marina, where it was used for high school proms and other events.

After the berth lease expired, a shovel brigade moved a sandbar, private jetboats pulled it out of the marina, and the hollow hulk floated downstream, to a site near the Lewiston levee.

Before its departure from the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, the engineless boat was last docked at the Port of Wilma. Jean completed the 365-mile journey to Portland, lashed to a grain barge and pushed by a tug boat.

"It's a beautiful boat," Jones said, "and owning her has been a positive experience. She has a wonderful welded hull and is very fast. I've shown the Jean to numerous people with big plans, like turning it into a floating casino, but nothing has panned out so far."

More information on the Steamboat Jean is available on its Facebook Marketplace listing at Jones said his cousin is screening prospective buyers and handling advertising for him.

"The Jean has been our home base, crew quarters, shop, galley and storage space for most of a decade," Jones said Friday. "Due to unforeseen circumstances, we're having to sell off all of our assets, but I don't want to see her scrapped. She still has 50 years in her, if you ask me."

Sandaine can be reached at

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