This incongruous small ferry across the Willamette River north of Salem, Oregon has been operating continuously since the 1850s.
The Willamette River, the historical heart of western Oregon, flows north through its eponymous valley to join the Columbia at Portland.
It has long been both a north-south highway and a barrier to east-west travel. To this day, the Wheatland Ferry provides the only crossing of the Willamette (wil-LAM-et) between Salem and Oregon State Route 219 outside Newberg, a distance of roughly 25 river miles.
This ferry was started by Daniel Matheny in the 1850s and has been in operation ever since. Indeed, the ferryboat has always been named the Daniel Matheny, followed by a Roman numeral (currently V) denoting the vessel’s generation. It is tethered by two cables across the river, one overhead and upstream, the other downstream and below the water surface.
Know Before You Go
The ferry is located on Wheatland Road, which on the west intersects Oregon SR 221 about 11 miles north of its intersection with Oregon SR 22 in Salem. On the east, it's just north of the Willamette Mission State Park. As of 2021, automobile tolls were $3 and free for pedestrians.
The ferry is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Days, and during times of extreme low or high water. It also does get some commuter traffic from Salem; plan accordingly!
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