Wheatland Ferry

The Wheatland Ferry is a cable ferry that connects Marion County and Yamhill County across the Willamette River in the U.S. state of Oregon. The ferry travels approximately 580 feet (178 meters) across the river, depending on the height of the river, and is powered by two electric motors connected to an on-board diesel generator. The ferry is supported by two steel cables, one under water on the downriver side, and one overhead on the upriver side. The ferry also uses the overhead cable for steering.

Wheatland Ferry
Wheatland Ferry approaching east landing P2326.jpeg
The Wheatland Ferry approaches the east bank of the Willamette carrying a typical weekend load of vehicles
LocaleWheatland, Oregon
WaterwayWillamette River
Transit typeElectric cable ferry
CarriesMatheny Road
Wheatland Road
OperatorMarion County, Oregon
Began operation1850s
System length580 feet (180 m)
No. of vessels1 (Daniel Matheny V)
No. of terminals2
The ferry on land

Each time a replacement Wheatland ferry is launched, it is always named Daniel Matheny, after the person who originally established the ferry,[1] followed by its number as a Roman numeral. The current ferry, launched in 2002 is Daniel Matheny V.[2] This most recent ferry differs from its predecessors in that it has a capacity of nine cars, rather than the six Daniel Matheny IV carried, and it has its own self-contained diesel-electric generator. As its source of electricity is now an onboard generator, the current ferry is no longer reliant on electricity from overhead wires. The overhead cable serves the sole purpose of bracing the ferry against the current.

The ferry is a joint operation of Marion and Yamhill counties, with Marion County taking the responsibility of staffing and operating the ferry. It operates every day that river conditions permit. In summer, low water levels can cause the ferry to bottom out. Dredging is sometimes employed to deepen the ferry's crossing lane to keep it operating longer during the dry season. During rainy months, high water levels and fast currents can stop ferry operations.

All vehicles must pay a toll. Pedestrians travel at no charge.[3]


The Wheatland Ferry is located at Willamette River mile 72, near the former community of Wheatland and Willamette Mission State Park and roughly between the cities of Salem and Newberg. Its location is strategic, because the nearest bridge in either direction is roughly 15 miles distant. The Wheatland Ferry is sometimes used as an alternative to the bridge which crosses the Willamette River in Salem.


The downriver guide cable is visible at left descending into the water; upriver overhead cables are at top right.

The first Daniel Matheny ferry was started by Daniel Matheny himself, in the 1850s. The ferry was a wooden raft powered by men with wooden poles.

The current ferry was built at Mar Com Shipyard in Portland Oregon in 2001.[citation needed]


The ferry in February 2010

The Wheatland Ferry has been a catalyst for local political controversy. Some of this is the natural result of the challenges of inter-county politics and budget issues. Motorists who frequently use the ferry are another factor, citing long wait times, frequent closures for maintenance and increasing prices. Because of its proximity to Salem, the state's capital and second largest city, political and practical issues over Salem's own bridge issues[4][5] affect the Wheatland Ferry.

Additional concerns about the ferry's operation were raised after the ferry operator was found to be intoxicated while running the ferry on November 4, 2012.[6]


The estimated annual number of vehicle crossings for 2007 was 240,000. While Yamhill and Marion counties are trying to increase ridership, the wait for the ferry can be lengthy at peak times. During harvest seasons, the ferry is frequently used by farmers delivering produce to canneries across the river.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lynn, Capi (January 5, 2005). "Couples married, then headed west". Statesman Journal.
  2. ^ "The Daniel Matheny V: Salem's New Wheatland Ferry". Salem Online History. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  3. ^ "Wheatland Ferry Information". Marion County Oregon. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  4. ^ "Alternatives". Salem River Crossing. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  5. ^ "Polk County Bridge Watch". Archived from the original on 2011-10-04.
  6. ^ Wolfe, Jolie (2 December 2012). "Ferry operator arrested for drinking on the job". KPTV.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 45°05′27″N 123°02′40″W / 45.09083°N 123.04444°W / 45.09083; -123.04444