Founded by George Washington Shaver in 1880, Shaver Transportation's early business included long runs to Idaho through the rapids of the Snake River. But much of the company's early work consisted of local transportation of timber, agricultural products and people on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, which were the Interstate 84 and Interstate 5 of the era. The first Portland bridge across the Willamette wasn't completed until 1887.
Many of the steamships were shallow-draft sternwheelers, which were very maneuverable and durable. Some were capable of steaming up smaller rivers like the Yamhill as far as Dayton. One business partner of Shaver bragged that he could get a steamship "anywhere where the roses are wet with dew."
Much of Shaver's current business consists of bringing wheat from inland Columbia ports back to the Port of Portland, which accounts for almost one-third of U.S. wheat exports, second only to New Orleans.