Crossing the River by ferry

Many of our residents still remember crossing the North Saskatchewan River by ferry. This method of crossing the river ended in 1950 ‑ our first bridge replaced the ferry that year. Our earliest settlers cros­sed the river on the Hopkins Ferry which was built in 1908. It was situated three and a half miles west of our bridge site. A second ferry was put into operation in 1913 just about where our bridge is lo­cated. This ferry was in oper­ation for 37 years. A few years after this ferry was built, the one at Hopkins was relocated about nine miles west. It was then known as the Spencer ferry.

Crossing the river by ferry was often a frustrating expe­rience. Often you arrived just as the ferry had left for the south shore. This meant a long wait. At the best of times, it proved to be a slow method, but unfortunately it was the only available way and we had to accept it.  Ferries generally operated from 8 a.m. to about midnight. You had to plan your trips ac­cording to this schedule.

Our first ferries relied on the river current when crossing the river. A heavy cable was strung across the river and the ferry had another sliding cable attached to it so it wouldn't take off up the river. In later years a motor was installed on the ferry making it more maneuverable.

There was always an inter­ruption during spring brea­kup and again during freeze­ up. During this period the ferry could not be used. Peo­ple crossed the river in a cage connected to the overhead cable. Many  people did not like this method of travel and switched their business to other towns south of the river. It always meant a de­cided drop‑off in business to our local businessmen.

Our first bridge was built in 1950. In 1981 an oil tanker went out of control and bur­ned on the north end of the bridge, making it unsafe. A temporary ferry was installed while bridge repairs were be­ing made. Once more, we had to cross the river by ferry.  Today there are very few ferries still operating in Al­berta. Due to a large increase in traffic, the Province has re­placed the ferries with bridges.