Cable ferry

Cable ferry
Coin operated cable ferry at Espevær in Bømlo, Norway

A cable ferry is guided and in many cases propelled across a river or other larger body of water by cables connected to both shores. They are also called chain ferries, floating bridges, or punts.

Early cable ferries often used either rope or steel chains, with the latter resulting in the alternate name of chain ferry. Both of these were largely replaced by stronger and more durable wire cable by the late 19th century.



There are three types of cable ferry: the reaction ferry, which uses the power of the river to tack across the current; the powered cable ferry, which uses an engine or electric motors (e.g., the Canby Ferry) to wind itself across; and fast disappearing is the hand-operated type, such as the Stratford-upon-Avon Chain Ferry in the UK and the Saugatuck Chain Ferry in Michigan, USA.

Both of the last two types use powered cogs or drums on board the vessel to pull itself along by the cables. The cables or chains have a considerable amount of slack built into them, in order that they sink below the surface as the ferry moves away, allowing other vessels to pass without becoming grounded, snared or trapped. Where a ferry carries both passengers and vehicles the car deck occupies the centre (helping to balance the vessel) and two passenger areas are at the sides, over the tunnels for the chains and the engines. As the ferry cannot steer a ramp is built at both ends, and there is usually a set of controls facing in either direction.

Ferries are common where there is little other water-borne traffic that could get snagged in the cable or chains, where the water may be too shallow for other options, or where the river current is too strong to permit the safe crossing of a ferry not attached to the shore. Alignment of the platform at each end of the journey is automatic and, especially for vehicle ferries, safer than a free-moving ferry might be in bad conditions.


Simple cable ferry, Gee's Bend, Alabama, 1939

Cable ferries have probably been used to cross rivers and similar bodies of water since before recorded history. Examples of ferry routes using this technology date back to the 13th century (Hampton Ferry in England).

Cable ferries were particularly prominent in early transportation in the Sacramento Delta of California. At one time, cable ferries were a primary means of automobile transportation in New South Wales in Australia. In Tasmania, for a century before 1934, the Risdon Punt at Hobart was the only fixed method of crossing the Derwent River within Hobart city limits.

In the early 1900s a cable ferry designed by Canadian engineer William Pitt, was installed on the Kennebecasis River near Saint John, New Brunswick in Canada.[1] There are now eight cable ferries along the St John River system in southern New Brunswick.

Most of the road crossings of the Murray River in South Australia are cable ferries operated by the state government using diesel engines. The platforms at the ends can be moved up or down according to the water level.

In Canada a cable ferry is proposed to transport automobiles across the Ottawa River in Ontario. There are several in BC: two on the Fraser, one at Lytton, one at Big Bar, three on Arrow Lakes. A suspended cable ferry worked until the 1980s in Boston Bar. A small seasonal cable ferry carries cars across the Rivière des Prairies from Laval, Quebec (Sainte-Dorothée neighbourhood) to Île Bizard (part of Montreal). Dozens of cable ferries operated on the Columbia River in the US northwest, and most have been rendered obsolete by bridges. A suspended cable ferry for railway cars crossed the American River in Northern California.

In the fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island, Hong Kong, a cable ferry (橫水渡) crossed the Tai O River before a bascule bridge was built.

List of cable ferries

Current cable ferries include:


  • Björkölinjen, across Björkösund strait between the islands of Korsö (in Kumlinge municipality) and Bockholm (in Brändö m.)
  • Embarsundlinjen, across Embarsund strait in Föglö municipality, between the islands of Finholma and Jyddö
  • Töftölinjen, across Prästösund strait between the islands of Töftö (in Vårdö municipality) and Prästö (in Sund m.)
  • Seglingelinjen, across the strait between the islands of Seglinge and Snäckö (both in Seglinge village in Kumlinge municipality)
  • Simskälalinjen, across the strait between the islands of Alören and Östra Simskäla (both in Vårdö municipality)
  • Ängsösundlinjen, across Ängösund strait between the islands of Lumparland (in Lumparland municipality) and Ängö (in Vårdö m.)



The Mannum Ferry.
The Moggill Ferry
Wisemans Ferry


  • Rollfähre Klosterneuburg, across the Danube River at Klosterneuburg
  • Drahtseilbrücke Ottensheim, across the Danube River at Ottensheim



Lytton Ferry (Fraser River)
Needles Cable Ferry (Arrow Lakes)
Riverhurst Ferry

Czech Republic


  • Østre Ferry, across Isefjord between Hammer Bakke and Orø. Uses cables for steering, but propellers for propulsion.
  • Udbyhøj Ferry, across Randers Fjord.


  • Kavastu Ferry, across Emajõgi in Kavastu.


Alassalmi cable ferry
Karhun cable ferry
Pikkarala ferry wintering on the shore of Oulujoki.
  • Alassalmi Ferry, across Alassalmi strait on lake Oulujärvi between Manamansalo island and mainland
  • Arvinsalmi Ferry, across Arvinsalmi strait between the municipalities of Rääkkylä and Liperi
  • Barösund Ferry, across Barösund strait between Barölandet and Orslandet islands
  • Bergö Ferry, in Bergö
  • Eskilsö Ferry
  • Hanhivirta Ferry, in Enonkoski
  • Hirvisalmi Ferry, across Hirvisalmi strait between the mainland and Paalasmaa island in Juuka
  • Hämmärönsalmi Ferry, across Hämmärönsalmi strait (Rimito-Hanka) in Rimito, Nådendal (part of r. road 1890)
  • Högsar Ferry, between Högsar and Storlandet islands in Nagu, Väståboland (part of r. road 12019)
  • Karhun Cable Ferry, between the mainland and the island of Karhu, Ii
  • Keistiö Ferry, between Keistiö and Iniö islands in Iniö, Väståboland
  • Kivimo Ferry, between Roslax on mainland Houtskär and Kivimo islands in Houtskär, Väståboland
  • Kokkila Ferry, between Kokkila on the mainland and Angelniemi on Kemiö island (part of r. road 1835)
  • Kyläniemi Ferry, between Utula and Kyläniemi
  • Lövö Ferry, between Kasnäs and Lövö islands in Hitis, Kimitoön (part of r. road 1830)
  • Mossala Ferry, between Björkö and Mossala islands in Houtskär, Väståboland (part of regional road 12003)
  • Pellinki Ferry, between the mainland and the island of Pellinki
  • Pettu Ferry, between Pettu and Utö islands in Finby, Salo
  • Pikkarala Ferry, across Oulujoki river in Pikkarala, Oulu
  • Puutossalmi Ferry, in Kuopio
  • Saverkeit Ferry, between mainland Houtskär and Västra Saverkeit islands in Houtskär, Väståboland (part of r. road 12005)
  • Skagen Ferry, between Jumo and Iniö islands in Iniö, Väståboland (part of r. road 12230)
  • Skåldö Ferry, between Degerö and Skåldö islands in Ekenäs, Raseborg
  • Tappuvirta Ferry, Tappuvirrantie
  • Vartsala Ferry, between Vartsala and Kivimaa islands in Gustavs (part of r. road 192)
  • Vånö Ferry, between Vånö and Attu islands in Pargas, Väståboland (part of r. road 12027)



The Pritzerbe Ferry
The Rathen Ferry

Hong Kong, China


Chain ferry being handcranked in Mozambique
  • Ferry across Shire River, 37 km south of Malawi's southernmost border



South Africa

Malgas Ferry on the Breede River, Western Cape, South Africa




  • Basel Ferries, four routes across the Rhine in the city of Basel

United Kingdom

The Cowes Floating Bridge loading at East Cowes

United States

Canby Ferry
White's Ferry
Wheatland Ferry
Princeton Ferry (Undergoing Renovation)



See also


  1. ^ "Saint John, New Brunswick First". Retrieved November 20, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Vivar-Kanal". Wikipedia Deutsch. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Ferry Locations and Operational Status". Government of South Australia. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  4. ^ a b "Council rejects call to change ferry service management". ABC. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  5. ^ a b "New Settlement Point Ferry". Port Macquarie - Hastings Council. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  6. ^ "Speewa Ferry - Murray River". New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  7. ^ Dickinson, Alex; Earley, David (2008-09-25). "Moggill Ferry master saves man after Brisbane River mishap". Courier Mail.,23739,24401934-3102,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  8. ^ "Walkabout - Meningie". Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  9. ^ "Noosa North Shore Car Ferries". Noosa North Shore Car Ferries. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Inland Ferry Schedules". Province of British Columbia. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "Government of Alberta Transportation Ferries". Government of Alberta. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  12. ^ "File:Adelson farja 2008.JPG". Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  13. ^ "File:Linfärjan Karna, Ivösjön.jpg". Wikimedia Commons.ärjan_Karna,_Ivösjön.jpg. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  14. ^ Hamill, Sean D. (2009-05-17). "Getting There From Here, Is It Better by the Ferry?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  15. ^ "The Cable Guy - Piloting the Delta's J-Mack ferry beats working for a living". Prosper Media, LLC. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  16. ^ a b "Ferries". California Delta Chambers and Visitor's Bureau. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  17. ^ a b c Shellenberger, William H (2001). Cruising the Chesapeake. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 236–237. ISBN 0071363718. 

External links

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