Monday, October 19, 2009

A Ferry Tale

Goal Number Two for Emma and I on our Welaka Aquarium quest, was crossing the River Of May on the Fort Gates Ferry.
The ferry was another of those old Florida things that I wanted to show her while it still exists in essentially the same form as it did when I was her age. Prior to the trip, I had my doubts it could still be operating, but after Googling a little, I found it.

How sweet it is!

First we had to get to the Ocala National Forest, about one hour away by faithful steed. After passing through some beautiful horse farm country, we zipped through a chunk of the national forest and landed in the small town of Salt Springs.
At the north end of Salt Springs is Forest Road 43, a graded dirt road that rolls down slope to the San Juan River. Along road 43, there were numerous numbered dirt tracks ("JEEP trails" according to the DeLorme maps.)
These proved to be a delightful distraction and had we not had goals. we would have just cruised these, one after another.

They get a post of their own this week.

Eventually, we made it to the ferry landing on the west side of the St. Johns River.

Emma! JEEP!

The sign behind the JEEP says to pull on to the dock and turn your lights on. This simple act signals the ferrymaster across the river to come and get you.
How long that takes depends on how busy he is over there at his fish camp, but it was only about 15 pleasant minutes for us ... before we saw the ferry leave the dock far across the river.

This is the hand operated winch system that lowers a metal ramp that mates with the ferry.

Here's the ferry pulling in to pick us up. It's pretty basic, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

The tiny ferry tender is a unique vessel. The bow is attached to the ferry by a swivel so that the tender just swings this way or that, depending on ferry direction.

JEEP goes nautical! (Emma's been nautical for a long time.)
The ride across is slow and ... well, pretty wonderful if you are sharing it with your baby girl.
It will cost you ten dollars to cross, but it saves a long ride north or south to find a bridge.
This is worth the money and the drive ... go find it.
We made you a little video to wet your appetite.


Hurricane Teen said...

Nice! I had no idea they still operated a ferry there...Definitely convenient if you're in that particular area.
Nice use of four different names of our river, too :-)
...One small bit of confusion, though... When you said "pretty wonderful if you are sharing it with your baby girl" are you talking about Emma or the JEEP? I'll bet both :-)
(The deleted comment was mine, by the way...I keep accidentally using the wrong one of my two Google accounts for Blogger.)

debbie said...

What a great post-retirement job!

robin andrea said...

Great little ferry and a grand way to spend a day with Emma.

Dani said...

What a great outing you two had! Makes me wish for a road trip.

CrackerNation said...

That is pretty unique! Glad it is still there. I will try it out next time I am down that way.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That is so cool. What a great glimpse of old Florida - thanks for sharing!

Cathy S. said...

Learn something new everyday. We don't have a JEEP, but we do have other vehicles and might give this a try. Can you navigate the road to the ferry on a motorcyle?

Deb said...

Now that would definitely be worth the ten bucks!

Floridacracker said...

Way to pick up on the Florida history!
I'm not saying if it was Emma or the Jeep I meant!

I don't think this guy is in a hurry to get rid of it!

Grand was it!

This is a good one, plus the forest is just brimming with other cool things.

Get it while it's still there!

I love finding or refinding these places.

Cathy S,
Yes, it's a well graded dirt road. It would be no problem for a street bike to navigate.
That diagnosis would change right after a big storm and before the grader made it out.

Floridacracker said...

I smiled as I handed it to him. It was definitely worth it.

cndymkr / jean said...

That ferry was the cutest thing! I hope it stays in operation forever. Somethings just shouldn't change.

Did it MY way said...

Most of Florida has changed to much. Glad to see some of it still left.

See Ya

Miz S said...

Cutest little ferry evah!

Floridacracker said...

Jean and Miz S,
Cute. and rugged.

My Way,
Get it while you can, it's going fast.

Thunder Dave said...

Not quite as high tech as the Anderson Ferry across the Ohio, but it looks more fun!

I'm currently traveling around the globe again so check in to see some of the new pics!