Archivists don’t have all the answers. We collect information and cross reference it. We take donations of paper, sound recordings, and audio visual thing-a-ma bobs. We train volunteers to transcribe, index, and accession. We think about how to find answers to the things we don’t know because we can always count on getting those questions.

The questions that stump us are unanticipated. They feel like they come out of left field.

Lately there have been a couple about the wharf. How long is it? The modern one, in the heart of Salmon Arm. It is said to be the longest curved inland wharf in North America. That’s a lot of qualifiers.

But who’s counting? Former City of Salmon Arm Public Works Employee Dale McTaggart is. He measured it. 270 metres.

A second wharf-related question was about the tall pillars in the bay.

“They look like part of an old wharf,” a researcher said when she phoned.

She sent me to Google Images and I looked at the shot she was referring to. I saw the metal covering the top of the poles. That was intentional and a modern application. These poles weren’t part of anything old.

Darin Gerow, Manager of Roads & Parks at the City of Salmon Arm, had the answer to that question. The poles were part of a well-thought-out design.

“The poles down at our wharf location are a breakwater,” Gerow wrote. “They are meant to prevent wave action and control sediment.”

Well that made sense. The bay has been dredged many times just so boats could get to shore. The first time was in 1908.

It wasn’t always so easy to get to shore.

In 1894 Surveyor George Mercer Dawson entered the Salmon Arm Bay by canoe. He stopped for lunch at Mallard point, before paddling into the Salmon Arm Station for supplies and to telegraph home office. His canoe grounded on the mudflats and he walked to shore barefoot.

He struggled through a 100 yards of gooey, sticky mud, so soft he feared he’d be engulfed entirely.

No wonder the City had a breakwater installed.

Then I thought about another question that comes up every once in a while.  I asked Darin how deep McGuire Lake was. There has been a lot of interest in the Lake – especially with the Fall exhibit “Little Lake” at the Arts Centre.

I knew the lake level was controlled by a weir and that there was a manhole at the west end. When the weir overflows, water enters the City’s storm system.

Darin told me that McGuire Lake was measured at six points in 2011 and the deepest measurement taken was 13 feet.

MMM. People have told me that it is bottomless.

And finally, I asked, who introduced waterlilies to the lake?

That answer isn’t part of the historical records and both Darin and I want to know!

Do you know the answer?


This last year the archivist answered 186 questions about Salmon Arm's history.