Edmonton, Travel | 3 comments
By: Cigdem Iltan
Photography by: Bruce Edwards
A ferryman never crosses same river twice
The Shaftesbury ferry runs west of Peace River. It is one of the few remaining in this province and the only one powered by a tug boat. Shaftesbury Ferry tugboat operator Gert van Butselaar has crossed the Peace River up to 80 times a day for most of the last 16 years, but says he never gets tired of his workplace view.
Tugboat pilot makes 80 trips a day but never tires of the Peace Country’s spectacular beauty
Meeting the thousands of people he pulls across each week is also a perk. “I like my job because you’re always with nature. You always have a beautiful view,” van Butselaar said.
Ferry Arriving on Shaftesbury Side
He started as a deckhand on the ferry in 1993 before earning the title of tugboat operator a few years later. The Shaftesbury is one of seven ferries still in operation in Alberta, just two of which are tug-driven ferries. The other five cross narrow rivers using cables.
Ferry preparing to Depart Shaftesbury Side
Ferry Departing Shaftesbury Side for Tangent side
Van Butselaar, a 61-year-old retired grain farmer, enjoys spending the winter months when the ferry is closed hiking through areas such as Nepal and Europe. “It’s nice to have a job where you can work eight months then do other things the other four months,” he said. But van Butselaar said he always looks forward to returning home in April in time for ferry season when he can see the leaves beginning to sprout on tree branches and the last of the ice has melted on the waterway.
The self-proclaimed outdoors-man canoes across the Peace River to work every day before spending his eight-hour shift tugging people, cars, and machinery across the fast-running river. “I wake up at 5:30 in the morning because I have to be there at quarter to 7,” he said. “I get to the river, I canoe across and
Ferry Approaching Tangent Side
Ferry Arriving at Tangent Side
I warm (the tug) up and then we start at 7 o’clock sharp,” he said. Tugboat operators are required to take courses in survival and van Butselaar said he always operates the ferry with safety in mind. In 16 years, he’s never encountered an emergency situation. The ferry used to transport mainly locals and farmers, but traffic has increased over the years and riders now include oilfield workers and travellers looking for an alternate route to Grande Prairie. The Peace River bridge is about 28 kilometres away from the ferry, and the nearby Dunvegan Suspension Bridge can’t take wide loads or farm equipment.
Ice bridge at the Shaftesbury Ferry site over the Peace River
“Sometimes there are lineups on weekends. We have a park close by right on the other side of the river and a lot of people come with holiday homes and trailers and stay for the weekend,” he said. The ferry can hold up to six vehicles and 50 people. “I think everybody who crosses the ferry gets a kick out of it,” van Butselaar said. “We get lots of pictures taken of us and the ferry. I think it’s a real souvenir.”
Tag boat looks deserted during the long winters
Explore Peace River’s missionary past along Shaftesbury Trail (Hwy. 684), stopping at St. Augustine Catholic mission and the cairn of Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie. When you get to Bricks Hill, take Hwy. 740 to the ferry landing, where you can board the Shaftesbury Ferry to cross the Peace River.
Shaftesbury ferry on Youtube:
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This is how one of the tourists described her experience with the ferry:
The Shaftesbury Trail was very beautiful. So easy to access right from the town of Peace River. The look out locations are beautiful. Camped at Strong Creek then continued on to the Shaftesbury Ferry. This little tug boat ferry took us and several other vehichles across the river – this was a really peaceful trip and gives you a sense of how big the Peace River is. Then spent two days at Tangent Park – only planned for one night but it was so beautiful! Spent hours on the hiking trails – right through the boreal forest. So full of birds! Sitting by the river’s edge was so peacefull. What a great place to get away from it all. Could have stayed for a week! Looks like the perfect place to go back to with horses – horse watering stations right on the trails!!
Hop aboard other Alberta’s ferries
by: Westworld magazine
Speeding along asphalt and gravel all day can exhaust even the most avid roadtripper. Why not slow down and float for a while? Alberta Transportation operates seven river ferries throughout the province from spring to mid-November. The brief boat-trips offer a welcome, waterborne reprieve from the road if you happen to be touring nearby.
When traipsing through the Drumheller region on the Dinosaur Trail (Hwy. 838), head past Horsethief Canyon to the Bleriot Ferry. The short ride crosses Red Deer River.
Start the day at the Barrhead Museum learning about the pioneering history of the area’s settlers. Then take Hwy. 769 north via Vega to the Klondyke Ferry crossing. The short ride across the Athabasca River deposits travellers minutes from the Fort Assiniboine Sandhills Wildland Provincial Park, a popular quadding destination. Take Hwy. 661 to the Fort Assiniboine Friendship Museum.
About a 20-minute drive from Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park Interpretive Centre (the site of a historic peace-treaty signing in 1877), the Crowfoot Ferry crosses Bow River.
With the town of Brooks about a 45-minute drive south, and Drumheller the same distance to the north, Finnegan Ferry is one of the more remote crossings. However, for those who do make the trek, the small town of Gem welcomes visitors on the south side of the river. Take Hwy. 862 to get there.
About 70 km southwest of the Mennonite community of La Crete, passengers can hop aboard LaCrete Ferry and cross the Peace River. Overnight at the recently expanded LaCrete Ferry Campground.
A 15-minute drive outside of Edson, the Rosevear Ferry crossing attracts its fair share of tourists from around the world. Many on their way to Jasper National Park make a detour to cross McLeod River.
Source: AMA site
Hope you have a good season!
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