The Ferry

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In 1897 William Campbell, a son of Scottish immigrants, came to a flat of ground in the Salmon River Canyon to grow and sell vegetables to neighboring mines in the high country. In 1898 a gold strike 60 miles south at Thunder Mountain brought a flood of prospectors seeking to cross the river and wilderness. Campbell built a ferry and the Three Blaze Trail to provide a northern route to Thunder Mountain Mine.

 

The Mechanics of a River Crossing

William Campbell built his first ferry by running boards across two pontoons. The river crossing was accomplished by stretching a large cable across the river. Campbell ran the cable through a massive pulley and attached the cable to large trees or rocks, known as dead-men, on each bank. He then ran a smaller cable from each upstream corner of the ferry to the pulley on the cross-river cable. To move from bank to bank, the ferry relied on the force of the current pushing on the angled sides of the ferry. To change the angle of the ferry to the current, Campbell turned a windlass. The windlass was connected to a drum with the end of one of the smaller cables wrapped around it. This smaller cable ran from the drum through a small pulley on the corner of the ferry and tied to the massive pulley on the cross-river cable. As the windlass was turned the smaller cable became shorter or longer, changing the angle of the ferry to the current. Today, modern river runners use the same cross-stream ferry technique when they row or paddle upstream while angled to the current.