Columbia River Ferry
Operating between Cathlamet, Wahkiakum Co., Washington and Westport, Clatsop Co., Oregon (July 2012)
|Ferry Crossing between Washington and Oregon|
It used to be difficult to cross the broad Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, especially as one moved closer to its terminus at the Pacific Ocean coastline. Even today with the Astoria-Megler Bridge near the mouth and the Lewis and Clark Bridge at Longview, there still remains a gap of about fifty miles without a bridge. That's why the Ferry Wahkiakum exists near the halfway point between the two, the only way to cross between the states within the otherwise long bridgeless gap.
Wahkiakum County, Washington was named for Chief Wahkiakum ("Tall Timber") of the Chinook tribe. In turn, the ferry was named for the county and also provided its only connection to the state of Oregon. An historical sign posted at the ferry terminal explained that ferry service has connected Washington's Puget Island to the Oregon side of the river at this point since 1925. Back then there were two ferries, one connecting Puget Island to the rest of Washington (now served by a bridge) and another from the island across the Columbia River into Oregon (the same route as the current Ferry Wahkiakum). The ferry operator used his Buick touring car to take foot passengers across the island from one ferry to the other.
Wahkiakum County purchased the ferry from private owners in 1962 and has operated the ferry as a public service ever since then.
Ferry on the Washington Side
The ferry was easy and convenient. We rode from the Washington side of the Columbia River, heading to Oregon.
- On the Washington side: From Cathlamet, take Route 409 over the bridge and head across the width of Puget Island until it ends at the ferry dock. The latitude/longitude coordinates for a GPS are 46.154017,-123.377732
- On the Oregon side: From Route 30 (Columbia River Highway), go north on Westport Ferry Road for about a half-mile. The latitude/longitude coordinates for a GPS are 46.136705,-123.377801
Ferry Wahkiakum operates on a regular schedule every day. It's always prudent to check the official website for exact hours and fares.
We waited awhile for the ferry to arrive, a pleasant enough experience since we weren't in any kind of hurry, and watched the river flow by. The ferry may be a convenience and a shortcut for the residents of Wahkiakum County. For the rest of us, it's an excuse to take a scenic drive punctuated by a ride across the water. The ferry docked soon enough and we rolled onto the deck. Ferry Wahkiakum might hold about nine cars per crossing, and we were the first on for this particular crossing. A deckhand collected the fare and the boat fired-up its engines.
Approaching the Oregon Side
It didn't take long for the Ferry Wahkiakum to make its one-and-a-half mile run across the Columbia River. We sat back, enjoyed the experience, and rolled-off to continue our adventure in Oregon.
Readers who have an interest in ferries might also want to check my Ferry Index page.