Ferry captain

The Cassville Ferry

When we first decided to visit Nelson Dewey State Park, I thought it only made sense to approach it via the Cassville ferry. The problem with that idea is that we live in Wisconsin on the eastern side of the Mississippi River and to do this correctly we needed to be on the western side in Iowa.

Fortunately, we have relatives in Des Moines, Iowa, whom we visit a few times each year. So we made plans that included a ferry ride on the return trip from Des Moines.

Back Roads to the Ferry

To get to the ferry on the western side of the Mississippi, we traveled on some back roads that probably aren’t used for much, other than getting to the place where the ferry docks.

From US 52, we went east on C9Y. That’s not a typo. Iowa really does designate some of its roads like this. C9Y is also called the Great River Road.

Happily, the ferry owners have posted signs as you get closer to the river that tell you you’re still on the right track. If they hadn’t, we might seriously have wondered if we had taken a wrong turn.

After a few miles on the winding road that mostly follows the Turkey River, we got to 360th Street (again, not a typo) which soon brought us to the dirt path known as Oak Road. About 2 miles down this road is the ferry’s docking point.

As we cautiously drove down Oak Road, we noticed several vehicles coming the other direction. I figured that the ferry had arrived a few minutes earlier and that we might be just in time for the return trip to Wisconsin.

I was right, but only just.

Boarding the Ferry

When we got to the river, a ferry worker was rolling something (I never found out what it was.) away from the docking point. We could see that the ferry was nearly full already, but there seemed to be one or two spots still open. So, I asked the worker if there was room for us. She said she would ask the captain, who remained in the ship’s wheel tower. We later heard her talking to him via walkie-talkie.

Cassville ferry captain's tower

Fortunately, they agreed that there was still room for us. It was a close thing, but I managed to drive – very slowly – onto the last spot in the left hand column of vehicles on the ferry. (There were three columns.)

Passengers on the Cassville ferry

I think everyone else in our column was a Harley rider.

Shortly after we boarded the ferry, we got out of the car, and the ferry began its journey. This is what the Iowa docking point looks like from the river.

Iowa docking point

Crossing the River

The trip only takes about 15 minutes. Along the way, we saw other craft on the water, including this speedboat.

Speedboat on the Mississippi River

There were also barges “parked” along the Iowa shore. I was impressed with this building on the Wisconsin side in Cassville. Assuming the map is correct, this is the River City Bath Company Health and Beauty Shop.

River City Bath Company

So, we were soon approaching the Cassville docking point.

Cassville ferry dock

When the ferry was stationary, everyone drove off – one at a time, of course – into Cassville. We didn’t stop anywhere in town but immediately went on to Nelson Dewey State Park.

If you’re interested in the rest of that journey, you can find it here.

We’re quite happy to say that we’ve now taken one of the few ferries across the Mississippi River. It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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