While chain ferries were popular in the past helping people and horses cross easy-flowing rivers, most of them were eventually upgraded to motor-driven cable ferries. Only in the city of Saugatuck, Michigan do visitors have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be ferried by a hand-cranked chain ferry. This is the last of its kind in the United States.
Saugatuck’s Chain Ferry has been operational since 1857, although the present ferry “Diane” was constructed in the 1960s. Surprisingly beautiful with a pure white Victorian gingerbread trim, it’s also an inexpensive ride. A trip costs only two dollars per person each way. The jovial ferry attendants share the vessel’s history and often allow passengers a turn at the chain hand crank.
As a unique summer tradition, it’s seasonally operated and ferries people along with bikes from downtown Saugatuck to the other side of the Kalamazoo River. Once on the other side, riders can climb the steps of Mt. Baldhead, visit the Saugatuck Douglas museum, visit Oval Beach by foot, or simply settle in comfortably for a return trip back. The ferry crosses the river every 15-minutes.
Know Before You Go
If there is rain or high wind, the ferry will not operate. Visitors can check on the Facebook page of the Saugatuck Chain Ferry to confirm hours for that day.