Report from the Cassville Ferry

There are only eleven ferries that cross the Mississippi River, and the northernmost one is in Cassville, Wisconsin. When I saw it on the map, I knew I had to go.

The ferry is quite a distance from the nearest bridge crossings are either in Prairie du Chien or Dubuque, and either direction is a 45 minute drive. Or you can go to Cassville and, at least during the summer months, drive up over the well-used BNSF tracks, along the Mississippi River frontage road, and over to the little dirt path that leads you right into the Mississippi River.

[Note the sign that says "bump".]

If the ferry is waiting for you, you are lucky. Otherwise, you have to press a little beg button and wait for it to come pick you up.

It's pretty cool when it does, though. It's a tiny little ferry boat attached to the side of a miniature tug. It's called the Pride of Cassville, and I can believe that, having spent some time in Cassville. (It's fine. and has some neat history. I recommend the Christian coffee shop!)

[Zoom in for a history of the ferry. It dates to the early 19th c., 1833 in fact (!), but was mothballed for decades during the 50s and for most of the late 20th century before being re-funded and re-started in 1988.]

Once it departs, the tug flops around and turns to the go the other direction, and then heads upstream over to a tiny dirt road ("Turkey River Road") in the floodplain that twists and winds through the trees until you finally reach the relativel civilization of Iowa C9Y.   

[The far landing is just a dirt road in the woods.]

Riding on the ferry is fun and a bit surreal. I have always wanted to travel down the river for an actual transportation purpose (instead of just joyriding) and this was as close as I've thus gotten. It was me, a middle aged couple in a white SUV, four people riding Harleys, the solar-powered call "beg" button stand waiting its deployment in Iowa, and the crew of the Pride of Cassville. We chugged upriver and watched the Cassville skyline shrink.

[Out on the water, halfway to Iowa.]

It's amazing how wide and sublime the Mississippi becomes once you get south of Red Wing. It's fun to imagine what crossing the river was like in the days before massive roads and bridges, when you had an intimate relationship with the river, and its shores and valleys were not so surmountable.

The driftless region of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois is a magical place. If you're ever near Cassville, see if you can find the ferry and ride on the river.

 [push button.]

 [here's the landing.]

 [the ferry off in the distance.]

 [waiting to load.]

 [the iowa flag.]

 [boarding the ferry.]

 [harley riders from chicago.]


 [looking north.]

 [turkey river ho.]

 [pano shot]

[solar powered beg button.]

[the mighty mississippi]

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