Ferryman Ben DeGiusti (front) and passenger Chris Eaton on an early ferry in Trail circa 1897. (Trail Historical Society photo)

Trail Blazers: From row boats to ferries to bridges

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives

With more people recreating in the water of the Columbia River over the summer months, looking at the history of shore-to-shore passage in the City of Trail is perfectly timely for this week’s Trail Blazers feature.

Pioneers first began traversing the river with a wooden boat and paddles, which must have been quite a feat back in the day of no dams to control year round raging currents or high water from spring melts.

“In the early 1890s, the only way to cross the Columbia River between East and West Trail was by rowboat,” explains Jesslyn Jarvis, collections coordinator for the Trail Museum and Archives.

“The small rowboats became problematic as the town grew and more goods and people needed frequent transport across the river.”

In 1895, to meet the growing needs of settlers, Fritz Heinze constructed a cable ferry.

(By the way, 1895 also saw the first edition of the Trail Creek News printed on sheets of butcher paper)

The cable ferry operated until Heinze was bought out by the CPR in 1898, then use of the vessel was stopped.

After incorporation in 1902, Trail City Council put the ferry back into service.

“The ferry was dangerous, causing numerous accidents while in service,” Jarvis said. “And in 1912 after the first bridge was completed, the ferry was no longer needed.”


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Read more: Trail Blazers, Inaugural Feature

Read more: Trail Blazers, the Old Trail Bridge

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The cable ferry is the front vessel. Behind it is the SS Lytton sternwheeler, used to transport passengers and supplies. (Trail Historical Society photo)

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