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2023 Trip Report - Cottonwood Ferry

Cottonwood Ferry

by Joeso

Last Spring on a visit to the Mojave River Valley Museum, Pat Schoffstall recommended a new book for us to read. “An Ordinary Adventure” is an account by Diane Wood of her and Gerald, her husband, purchasing a Model A and recreating a trip on Route 66 from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Rialto, California that her mother and grandfather had done in 1934. As closely as possible they followed her mother’s detailed diary written during the trip.

The book was overall a fun read but one section really tweaked my interest. When they reached Kingman, Arizona, Diane’s mother and grandfather decided they wanted to see Boulder Dam under construction (it was not completed until May of 1935). Their maps showed the road north from Kingman and off they went. Her diary states that when they reached the Chloride to Searchlight Road they “Saw a sign instructing us to turn left to go to Boulder City. Took it. The road looked better than the road we were on and was better. The road was a one-track affair and we very gradually went up into the mountains but came down much more abruptly. We came down the side of a ridge of mountains which was so steep we had to put the car in first gear the majority of the distance. We came down and down for eight miles and then followed a very sandy road three miles to what is called the Aerial ferry.”

In her later years Diane’s mother described the ferry ride to her. “She told us that the car engine that ran the whole thing was out of a Model T. The operator would chock their tires and then climb up the ladder to crank over the engine and they would putt-putt slowly across the mighty Colorado.”

The NPS told Diane that the aerial ferry “transported automobiles across the river on a rickety framework. It was said once you crossed the river to the other side, you would never come back.”

I never knew there had been anything like an aerial auto ferry across the Colorado River. I was intrigued and wanted to know more but information about it is scarce. It seems that some time between 1928 and 1930 William Brown built the aerial ferry across the Colorado River at Cottonwood Valley (Cove) to transport vehicles and ore form the Quartette Mine. It was powered from above by an automobile engine and could transport up to two cars suspended from eight cables. The aerial ferry went out of business after the new road across Boulder Dam was opened. Regrettably what remains of the ferry is now under Lake Mohave.

cottonwood ferry - UNLV photo
cottonwood ferry - Cottonwood Ferry - Rich Dodson Needles Museum Museum
Cable Ferry Rates Board - UNLV photo
Cottonwood Ferry - Jane Overy Searchlight Museum-topaz-denoise