Wyoming July 04, 2019
You’ll Never Forget The Story Of The Most Hated Man In Wyoming And His Rotting, Abandoned Ship
Wyoming is full of quirky and odd history. Back when Yellowstone was first established as a National Park, there were always people trying to take advantage of the tourists coming to experience this wonder. One such man – E.C. Waters – was eventually driven out of the park, banned for life, and ended up the most hated man in Wyoming.
Yellowstone Lake is one of the most incredible natural wonders in Wyoming - but did you know the story of the shipwreck on Stevenson Island?
This is a tale of someone once called the most hated man in Wyoming - Ella C. Waters.
Starting in 1891, E.C. Waters (then General Manager of the Yellowstone Park Association) began a steamship transportation route between Lake Yellowstone and West Thumb.
Travelers were eager to avoid the bumpy, dusty stagecoach ride around the lake and much preferred the breezy, scenic boat trip. However, E.C. Waters charged an fee on top of what the stagecoach companies charged, and tourists were not too pleased with having to pay additional transport fees.
Despite the extra cost, the
Zillah was often full to capacity, binging 125 visitors at a time across the lake.
Waters used his position as General Manager to expand his operations, and began selling small groceries, offering side trips, renting small boats to tourists, and even providing blacksmith services. He constructed several small launches, and in 1896, he placed bison and elk on Dot Island and began to use them as a tourist attraction.
By 1904, Waters' exorbitant $3 charge for a ride from West Thumb to Yellowstone Lake Hotel was starting to irritate passengers. The Park suggested bringing in competing boat companies, and Waters fought back.
Zillah had fallen into disrepair, and passengers began to worry if it was seaworthy. Waters decided to commission a much larger vessel - named after himself, of course - and brough tit from Dubuque, Iowa to Yellowstone Lake. He requested a permit to carry 500 passengers at a time, and the Park Administration refused.
E.C. Waters never made more than a few test runs across the lake, because Waters himself refused to accept a permit for fewer passengers.
By 1907, E.C. Waters was barred from operating his ships in Yellowstone Park. The
Zillah had fallen into disrepair, and was scrapped. The E.C. Waters, never receiving its passenger permit, was sailed to Stevenson Island, in the middle of the lake. It was docked in a cove that was typically safe from winter ice, but in 1921, it was pushed up onto the beach by the elements. In 1926, Park officials salvaged some of the ship's machinery, and the boiler was used to heat the Lake Hotel for the next 46 years.
Today, the remnants of the once elegant
E.C. Waters sit, rotting and decaying, on Stevenson Island. In the end, it was Waters' greed that led to him being chased from the park, and his prize steamship abandoned.
The Ship remained on Stevenson Island, and provided shelter for various activities not quite sanctioned by the park. Boaters hid Moonshine operations in the hull, parties would be thrown, and eventually, the park decided to do away with the eyesore. So, in the winter of 1930, two rangers sailed out with a can of kerosene and burned it.
The photo above shows the remnants of the resilient E.C. Waters today.
If you're looking to get up close with the storied shipwreck of Yellowstone Lake, head out on the Lake Queen.
This modern ship offers one-hour tours of the Lake, including a stop at Stevenson Island to hear the story of the
E.C. Waters and the man whose greed landed him a lifetime ban from Yellowstone National Park.
learn more about the Lake Queen tour online here.
Address: Stevenson Island, WY, 82190
For more quirky Wyoming history, read
11 Insane Things That Happened In Wyoming You Won’t Find in History Books.