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July 7, 2013 at 9:14 PM

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Last ride for aging Columbia ferry


ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Steve, the dog, keeps watch from a pickup truck while deckhand John Rivera guides another of the dozen vehicle that fit aboard the Martha S. on the Columbia River. Operated by the state department of transportation's eastern region, the ferry's last run is Sunday.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Fishermen Duane Sherrill, left, and Tom McFarland wait for bass to bite as the Martha S. heads north across the Columbia River.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Homemade wheel chocks are on-board the ferry as a safety factor during the crossing across the Columbia River.

Martha S. was 65 years old and her parts were wearing out. Replacements had to be custom-made. So, she retired Sunday.

The ferry that crosses the Columbia River at Highway 21 is known as the Keller Ferry, but the longtime vessel was named for Martha Shain, wife of the state highway director when the boat was put in service. The ferry connects Lincoln and Ferry counties.

Five times an hour, the Keller Ferry covers 1.25 miles, carrying up to a dozen vehicles.

It was the first state-run route, and Martha S. was the only state ferry under control of the Department of Transportation.

There's no food service, no restroom, no solarium, no rack of travel brochures. There are few walk-ons, since it's 12 miles north to Keller, Ferry County.

It's also free. Costs are borne by the taxpayers.

There's a crew of two aboard -- the pilot and the deckhand.

They're friendly and knowledgeable about the vessel and its history.

Pilot John Miller says, "It's one of a kind."

In the wheelhouse, there are the original wheels for steering.

At a recent midday, Miller's wife, Shari, and their dogs, Thunder and Bandit, delivered a sack lunch.

Martha S.'s future is unknown, but as of Monday there is no ferry service here for five weeks as the ramps are enlarged and improved for the replacement boat, the Sanpoil.

Drivers will have to detour about 60 miles until then.

There will be a dedication of the new vessel Aug. 14.

After that, time for a road trip.



ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

It's a close fit and a close watch for the passenger in this large RV as it's guided on-board the Martha S.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

In the wheelhouse there's much original equipment in the Martha S. The ferry went into service in 1948.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

This circa 1935 photo shows the Keller Ferry as a cable-driven wooden conveyance across the Columbia River before the Grand Coulee Dam was built creating Lake Roosevelt.

For more photos from the Keller Ferry, visit the gallery.

Most Popular Comments
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bubba175, have you ever Been to Ferry county? It's not exactly your hotbed of tourism -... MORE
Why would DOT choose the summer tourist season to shut down the road for weeks? MORE
We traveled the ferry last week. Landings are funky and no doubt need the work. Summer... MORE

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