Car ferry service across the Columbia River at Vantage begins in 1914.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 3/05/2003
  • Essay 5373
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In 1914 car ferry service across the Columbia River at Vantage begins. The service is built in response to the demands of settlers in the Ellensburg area who want a direct route when traveling east. Ellensburg is situated just west of the river.

The car ferry at Vantage carried two cars at a time and was powered by a launch. The ferry itself was a wooden planked barge with wooden railings along the sides. Chains across the front and back were intended to ensure that the cars stayed put during the crossing. Cars drove on and off on a small wooden ramp which was raised for the crossing.

Although the chains at front and back were intended to keep the cars in place, the primitive brakes on the early cars that used the ferry sometimes failed to hold. Cars and passengers were sometimes lost when cars rolled off of the ferry into the surging Columbia.

The car ferry at Vantage operated until 1927 when the state highway department constructed a 1640-foot cantilever bridge to replace it.


Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington’s Past: A Road Guide To History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 117; Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works (Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1998), 114.

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