The Paddlewheeler

The Paddlewheeler, known as the Neo-watin, toured guests around Lake Waskesiu on a one hour cruise. This very popular vacation activity became an iconic photo of Waskesiu whether pictured on a lovely sunny day or silhouetted against a vibrant sunset.

Henry Samson who worked at Mitchell’s Kapasawin Cabins in the 1950s and 60s made two models of the Paddlewheeler. One model he gave to Dave Balon, former NHL player who owned and operated the boat with his family. When Henry died his son, Norm donated this model to the museum.

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History of the Paddlewheeler

Jullian Mills, a steamship captain for 45 years on Alberta’s northern waterways retired in 1962 and moved to Edmonton in 1970. He then captained the Klondike Queen, a diesel-powered paddle wheeler that offered cruises on the North Saskatchewan River to Big Island, a recreation park near Edmonton. (It is believed that the North Saskatchewan waters were too dangerous to keep the paddle wheeler as a cruise boat thus it was sold.)

In the 1960’s, after Karen and Les Solymos took over the Waskesiu marina, they looked for a suitable boat for pleasure cruises on Waskesiu Lake. They brought the paddlewheeler to Prince Albert National Park from Edmonton where it had been in dry-docking.

Karen Solymos wanted the paddlewheeler to have a Cree name because Waskesiu is a Cree word (meaning Red Deer) so she chose Neo-watin which means “no wind”, ideal conditions for a paddlewheeler.

The Neo-watin’s inaugural trip was a charter for the very first Premiers’ Conference to be held in Waskesiu.

The Solymos family operated the Neo-watin until the spring of 1975 when it was sold in an auction sale at the marina. A group of Waskesiu businessmen bought the Neo-watin, boats and motors.

Dave Balon took over as marina manager, and later became owner of just the Neo-watin with partners Vic Davidson and Joe Krieg. They added food and beverage services on the Neo-watin.

Over the years that the Neo-watin cruised its waters, hundreds of passengers enjoyed a leisurely hour gliding along the shoreline of Waskesiu Lake.

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