a steamboat at the Skaggs Bridge landing

The San Joaquin River Steamboats

During the pioneer years of Fresno and Madera Counties, steamboats were used to bring supplies up the San Joaquin River to settlers living in the Valley. In 1911, a committee of residents from both counties enticed the owner of the J.R. McDonald, a paddle wheel steamer, to travel the river again to show that it was still navigable. Although the trip was a success, the resumption of river traffic for commercial purposes never became a reality again. This photograph was taken at the Skaggs Bridge landing. The crowd on the dock was from Madera, while the ones on the boat were from Fresno. Photo courtesy MCHS

The J.R. McDonald

In this photograph, the J.R. McDonald has just arrived at the landing. The boat left Stockton on June 9, 1911, pulling a barge loaded with 123 tons of freight bound for Madera and Fresno. Just as it was pulling away, the ship’s flagstaff broke, so it was left in Stockton. When the vessel reached Mendota, the flag from the schoolhouse was pressed into service. The boat pulled into the Madera County landing on June 15, 1911.

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