This isn't really local, but it was in a local album and I like ferries. Olds Ferry crossed the Snake River between Weiser Idaho and Huntington Oregon for many decades. Travel was a little more of an adventure before strips of asphalt connected every point. Stopping at a major river to wait for a ferry to carry you to the other side seems so quaint and relaxed.
Here's what the Idaho Historical Society has to say about the Olds Ferry:
Olds Ferry (T11N, R7W, Section 7): Olds ferry was established by Reuben P. Olds and associates in 1863. In 1865, Olds formed a partnership with William Packwood and John Parton, known as the Oregon Road, Bridge and Ferry Company. In addition to Olds ferry, the company also owned the Washoe and Central ferries. The group dissolved its holdings in 1868, and William Green became the proprietor of the Olds ferry. The ferry remained in operation under various owners until 1920, when it was purchased by some sheepmen and taken down the river to Brownlee.
I can't find the exact spot on the map as Olds Ferry roads run along both sides of the snake river for many miles. My best guess is it is at the Farewell Bend State Recreation Area.
Tags: automobile ferry Huntington postcard Snake_River Weiser
OK, knowledgeable people...
Did this ferry not have a motor? It looks like the operator is using a wheel to navigate.
There is quite a conglomeration of cables, so it was it powered from the shore?
We are fortunate to to live close to a great ferry system in the Puget Sound and Vancouver Island area. I encourage anyone with young children to take them on a ride. It is a memory that stays with you.
L.E. on 1st September 2016 @ 7:36am
My take on this is that those cables keep it in position, as without power there would be no way to keep it from simply floating off down the river. It is apparent to me that the ferry man used the wheel to take it back and forth. I am guessing and only guessing that this portion of river remained fairly calm. Probably in the event of very rough water that ferry would not even run.
The only ferry I am familiar with is the one that I used to ride on frequently between Biggs (actually it ran at that time from about where old town Grants was) and Maryhill (Columbus). It was two units. The portion that the cars were on and the tug that propelled it and controlled the entire thing from simply floating off to the ocean. Even when my great-grandfather owned and operated the Biggs ferry during the 1880's and 1890's it was the two unit affair and was controlled by the tug "Nellie."
I would venture to say that there were probably times that the ferry at Biggs would not be running. Naturally it wasn't running during the 1894 flood, as my great-grandfather had it tied up to the porch of his house. However, the tug came into operation. Things kept floating down the river, such as the entire distrillery that was at Grant, not to mention the chicken house with the chickens clinging to it. The big distillery was captured, as were all but one chicken.
He almost lost the ferry due to the water going down.
The railroad tracks were between the river and his house and once the water came up high enough for the ferry to clear it he brought the vehicle portion over and tied it up. When the water was subsiding he almost forgot that he had to get that back over the tracks and to the actual place the river would be after the flood. Must have been an interesting sight to see.....
I do remember some scary winter crossings, in the eyes of a little girl, on the ferry when the old Columbia was rocking and rolling. I am quite certain that the ferry captain would not have been making crossings if he deemed it unsafe.
charlott on 1st September 2016 @ 8:05am
As far as location, the 1N, 7W, S7 is based on the Boise Meridian, and that puts it about two miles south of Farewell Bend, due east of the Benson Interchange of I-84. Both the older and newer topo maps show the railroad levee that appears in the photo. Both sets of maps note the Olds Ferry location.
I would hazard the guess that the double cable, being on the upstream side, would allow the operator to control the angle of the boat to the current based on current strength of the day/season such that he wasn't fighting the current to get to the landings. I would wonder if the wheel, rather than being for steerage, isn't actually what pulls the ferry along, perhaps connected to a cable.
spinsur on 1st September 2016 @ 8:59am
Judging by the cable configuration I believe it is a current powered ferry That type is angled so the current carried it across, changing the angle propelled it on the return. This was at one time not an uncommon type. I saw one not long ago near Harrisburg Oregon that was still used by a farmer with land on both sides of the Willamette, thanks to channel changes.
Kenn on 1st September 2016 @ 12:41pm
I believe the ferry was where the RR bridge is now, there is no other level way into Huntington from the east.
Kenn on 1st September 2016 @ 12:46pm
The angle/self powered makes a lot of sense, Kenn, thanks. Try this for location, google search for " USGS US Topo 7.5-minute map for Olds Ferry, ID-OR 2013 ". I think you'll get to a site that will show it as described, and seems to match picture.
spinsur on 1st September 2016 @ 12:52pm
This should take ya there: ftp://ftp.gis.oregon.gov/imagery/USGSTOPOMAPS/EASTERNOREGON/USGS_24k/Olds_Ferry_O44117C2_geo.PDF
spinsur on 1st September 2016 @ 12:58pm
Agree with Kenn. And I would guess the wheel is attached to a simple rudder to keep the ferry at the best angle to the current to enhance propulsion.
Buzz on 1st September 2016 @ 1:14pm
There is still a cable-held ferry running across the Willamette near Canby. It does have a small diesel motor. I've taken my horse across - riders must dismount.
Jill Stanford on 1st September 2016 @ 3:57pm
They probably wouldn't have to even tell me to dismount. I would not be fond of sitting on a skittish horse, with water surrounding me.
Over the roof of the car, it looks like there is smoke or steam coming out of something. It appears to be a tower on the bank?
L.E. on 1st September 2016 @ 5:15pm
No wake, so must not have been making much of any headway at the time the picture was taken. What is the purpose of the downstream cable?
Longshot on 2nd September 2016 @ 12:36am
A wheel on the cable is used to pull a drift ferry the last distance to, and hold it to, the landing.
Kenn on 2nd September 2016 @ 9:15am
Jill, there are still three ferries on the Willamette, all cable guided and diesel powered. The one at Canby we call the "Clackamas County Navy".
Kenn on 2nd September 2016 @ 4:02pm
The wheel the man is holding on the drift ferry would be needed to shorten one line and lengthen the other. This changes the ferry angle and direction, the entire boat acting as a rudder. I asked Joe McDonald the ferry boat author and he did not know how it was pulled the last few feet to the bank to tie up, apparently a manual operation.
Kenn on 20th September 2016 @ 8:06am
I live near this location and I have fished the banks along the Snake River. This photo is looking north towards the sand dunes from the Oregon side of the Snake River. What I find amazing is that the area looks very similar still to this day. I can see where the railroad tracks go through. A road was built that crosses the top of the sand dune. Lots of incredible history along this river and beyond the Weiser/Snake confluence. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27825736. This area was traveled for many centuries.
Scott Webb on 1st March 2022 @ 9:36am