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Washington State Ferry Martha S. of Keller makes her maiden voyage across Lake Roosevelt on September 9, 1948.

HistoryLink.org Essay 7225 : Printer-Friendly Format

On September 9, 1948, the ferry Martha S. of Keller makes her maiden voyage across Lake Roosevelt. The vessel is named in honor of Martha Shain and is also known as the Keller Ferry. Martha Shain is the wife of State Highway Director Clarence Shain. Lake Roosevelt is the holding reservoir for the Columbia River behind Grand Coulee Dam. The Columbia is 1.25 miles wide at this point.

Ferry service across the Columbia had existed at this location since before 1890. The state began operating a ferry here on September 1, 1930. Between 1939 and 1942 the water level gradually increased due to the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. The original ferry landing was flooded in late 1939.

The Martha S. was built at the nearby town of Coulee Dam, and traveled from the shipyard to the launch point on her own power. Diesel-driven propellers on both ends meant that she never had to be backed up into a landing.

As of 2004 the Martha S. is still in service. She has a 12-car capacity and is 80 feet long with a 30-foot beam. Powered by two Detroit Diesel 6-71 engines, she makes the crossing in about 12 minutes. The ferry carries traffic on State Route 21 (formerly known as State Route 4), crossing the Columbia at its confluence with the Sanpoil River from Ferry County and the Colville Indian Reservation on the north bank to Lincoln County on the south. Basalt cliffs and scablands form both shores.

The ferry is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and operated by WSDOT's Eastern Division, based in Spokane. The vessel operates seven days a week, 18 hours a day. The crew can observe both landings from one of them, and waits at a landing until a vehicle appears, thus avoiding empty crossings.

Sources:
"Ferries in Eastern Washington," (Washington State Department of Transportation website accessed October 26, 2004 (http://www.wsdot.wa/gov/regions/Eastern/ StateFerriesEasternregion.cfm); "New State Ferry at Keller Crossing Now in Operation," The Wilbur Register, September 16, 1948; Mark Bozanich, "The Keller Ferry," Highways of Washington website accessed December 28, 2006 (http://www.angelfire.com/wa2/hwysofwastate/ColRivBr57.html).
Note: This essay was corrected as to the ownership of the vessel on December 28, 2006.


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Special Suite: Washington State Ferries |

Related Topics: Maritime | Washington Rivers | Roads & Rails |

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Martha S ferry carrying State Route 21 across the Columbia, shot from north shore, Keller, May 2003
Photo by Mark Bozanich


Ferry Martha S. of Keller, Columbia River between Ferry and Lincoln counties, maiden voyage, September 9, 1948
Courtesy WSDOT


 
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