We were headed south along the mighty Susquehanna River to visit an old friend. Down along the river past Shamokin Dam, Hummels Warf and Port Treverton, names that speak of the river’s past as a major transportation corridor.
The Susquehanna is often described as a mile wide (which is almost correct) and an inch deep, a good description of a river that is, for the 40 miles from Shamokin Dam downstream to Duncannon, not spanned with a bridge.
Before motor vehicles, when travel was slower and distance was a major problem, there were a number of ferries crossing the river. Now, there is but one, the last ferry crossing the Susquehanna – the Millersburg Ferry. Not only is it the last ferry on the river, but its two boats are said to be the last wooden stern paddle wheelers in the United States.
We decided to take the ferry across the river and drove to the landing, where we saw a great egret near an island -
And watched the ferry slowly make its way across the river –
Ours was the last of three vehicles (the ferry’s capacity) to board.
The ferry runs on an “as needed” basis; on this beautiful summer day it was making repeated trips back and forth across the river. When passengers are less frequent the means of summoning the ferry from across the river is to swing an old door mounted on a post so the white side faces the other shore –
The ferry is powered by a diesel engine driving a hydraulic motor, which turns a chain drive connected to the paddlewheels –
The ferry follows a winding route across the river, keeping to the deeper water above the “ferry wall”, a low dam constructed of rock and gravel in the 1870s.
The ferry wall clearly shows in a satellite view of the river –
The ferry wall makes a mild riffle enjoyed by kayakers –
And its rocks provide a loafing spot for waterfowl –
After a 20 minute crossing we arrived at Millersburg, a pleasant riverfront town –
With an interpretive sign outlining the ferry’s history; there was apparently a ferry here as early as 1760.
We watched as the ferry loaded for another trip across the river and cast off - with a deckhand pushing the ferry away from the landing –
And with that the paddlewheels began turning and the journey began -
The Millersburg ferry is a delightful voyage and a chance to see waterfowl and other birds that frequent the river, including bald eagles.