Ontario has a pretty interesting selection of ferries, but the Scott Island crossing doesn’t rate very high on that list.
Scott Island is about mid-way between Kingston and Ottawa in the mass of lakes, islands and waterways that characterise this part of the Canadian Shield.
The ferry to the island crosses a channel only about 40
wide, with Clear Lake to the north and Indian Lake to the south.
This channel is part of the Rideau Canal system that Colonel By built between 1826 and 1832 to connect the Ottawa River with Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence—
which means in summer there is plenty of recreational boat traffic passing through.
I had challenged users of this site to tell me about any ferries I wasn’t aware of, and in March 2022 I was pleased to get an email from Wes C. telling me about Scott Island, especially as it was only a 45 minute drive from my place on North Otter Lake. Even so it still took me another 16 months before I was able to get there, en route to our relatives’ cottage on Dean Island, near Jones Falls.
We drove up from the south west passing through Chaffeys Lock—a pretty spot, but that beauty has brought with it plenty of tourists and the related infrastructure. A couple of kilometres past Chaffeys we branched off the main road and drove another couple of kilometres through wooded country, punctuated by cottages. Finally Isthmus Road took us over the isthmus before ending at the water’s edge facing the ferry—which was moored on the opposite bank of the channel.
I knew that the ferry was self-operated, and I had seen photos that indicated that a boat operating licence was required to use it, and so I had brought mine just in case! But at first sight the ferry didn’t really look like it was operational, nor were there any signs about how to operate it, other than a weight limit. But by the water’s edge there fresh marks where the ferry ramp had landed and where a vehicle had spun its wheels driving on or off, so it must have been functional.
The ferry itself is as basic as it gets; a simple barge with room for one vehicle, a liftable ramp at either end and a chain connected to each shore that the user pulls on to move the ferry across the channel. I had expected based on Wes’ email that the ferry would be electrically powered, but there was no sign that anything other than muscle power moved it.
The ferry is actually owned by the Township of Rideau Lakes. Scott Island appears to be populated just by summer cottages, and I’m sure their residents and visitors know how to use the ferry; when I visited I could see no way even of getting it back over to my side of the channel. There used to be a number of ferries in the area—
witness the nearby community of Rideau Ferry where the actual ferry was replaced by a bridge in 1874. Now this is the only ferry I know about in the land between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers.
Seen from either land or water it’s a pretty, but not spectacular part of the world to visit, especially when the sun shines (which it didn’t the day I was there). But you are unlikely to be using the ferry here unless you are an island resident or visitor. Or you are coming to fix the hydro!