Historic Hood River
Sail Powered Ferry
Ferries of all forms plied the waters between Hood River and Washington from the 1850s through the 1920s, when the construction of the interstate bridge rendered them unnecessary. They were a part of everyday life. If you wanted to get a car or cart, cow or chicken from one side of the river to the other you would need to pay one of the ferry operators for the transport. There were ferry landings in at least three spots on each side of the river. We’ll show some of them in coming weeks.
Our Monday Mystery is that the ferry in this photo seems to be a real anachronism. We have pretty reliable dating of this image to about 1915, though by that era surely most ferry traffic was by motor powered craft. We have many pictures showing those craft, including some from this same collection. The latest written record I’ve seen of a sail powered ferry is one operated by John Stanley (of Stanley Rock fame). From the 1850s through the 1880s he operated a sail powered ferry, first between Stanley Rock and Bingen, and later between Bingen and the point where the Hood River Inn currently resides.
Yet there is this picture. Did a sail powered ferry survive several decades into the era of motor power? Were some people willing to tolerate a slower ferry that didn’t operate when the wind didn’t blow?
An adult Hood River resident of the 1910’s would have been witness to some major changes: automobiles and airplanes, the Columbia River Highway, telephones and electricity. Perhaps some people found the pace of this sail powered ferry a welcome relief.