Thursday, August 16, 2012

Exploring Connecticut - Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Part 1

In 1769 John Warner built a ferry that traversed the Connecticut River between Chester on the west side and Hadlyme on the east side.

More than 100 years earlier two ferries had been built, one in 1662 to the south between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme and the other several miles upstream in 1664 between Haddam and East Haddam.

Warner's Ferry later carted supplies across the Connecticut River during the American Revolution which was a flat-bottomed scow powered by men using long poles.  I can only imagine who and what used that ferry during that period.

Essex-Lyme Ferry
- Essex Historical Society and the Treasures of Connecticut Libraries
A steam-powered ferry was put in service around 1877.  I could find no photos of any of the historical Chester-Hadlyme ferries, unfortunately.

The Essex Lyme Ferry pictured left gives us an idea of ferry construction in the late 1700's.  If time travel were possible I would love to spend a few weeks in Connecticut during this time period. 

Ferry Boats a Way of Life in Early Connecticut

Today, the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry still provides an important service.  Those of us who live in this area know that there are limited ways to cross the Connecticut River.  Far to the north in Middletown-Portland is the Arrigoni Bridge and far to the south is the Old Lyme Bridge.

One evening as I was returning from Old Saybrook, I arrived at the East Haddam Swing Bridge area and a long line of cars.  This is not unusual as it takes about 10 minutes for the bridge to open and close resulting in long lines of cars on both sides of the Connecticut River.  On this day, however, the bridge did not reopen.

I was actually able to see the bridge from where I stopped and could see smoke and a boat beneath.  My daughter and I decided to have dinner at Haddam Pizza while we waited for the bridge to be repaired and reopen but as time went on, dinner was finished, the bridge did not reopen.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry
Our choices were 18 miles to the north, 20 miles to the south or the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry.  Because I had waited so long the ferry had a long line as well so we just drove down to Old Saybrook, got on I-95 and crossed in Old Lyme then headed back up on Route 156.

One time years before the bridge was closed for some unknown reason and because I had a car full of young children I immediately drove down to the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry.  Within minutes there was a long line of cars behind me.  For $3.00 we crossed the Connecticut River in our mini-van.  It was my first and only ferry crossing.

The State of Connecticut threatened to close the ferry permanently in 2011 due to budget cuts, but the uproar of opposition stopped that plan.  Really, find somewhere else to cut costs.  Removing one of only three ways to cross the Connecticut River in a 40-mile range is just silly.

Sunrise at Chester-Hadlyme Ferry on Connecticut River
I plan to photograph the east side of the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry at sunset next time. Stay tuned.

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