I guess my ferry love goes way back as my first crossing of the Île-Bizard ferry was in 1978. I was on holiday at my in-laws in Kingston and had just been offered a job in Montreal, so my wife, her sister and I borrowed the family Ford Maverick (the worst car I've ever come across) and spent a day checking out the Montreal area to see if we wanted to live there. At the end of our jaunt we headed a few stops up autoroute 13 (then a toll road at 25¢ a go), and came back via the Île-Bizard ferry. And I don't think it's changed much since then, except the 2-car boat, the "Paule" was replaced in 1987 by the 6-car "Paule II".
It's a reaction ferry—the strength of the current is all that powers it. A taught cable is strung 25 ft above the river, supporting pulleys attached to a couple of other cables that in turn restrain the "Paule II". The river current pushes against rudders under the ferry to move it either one way or the other, back and forth across the river. The current here is very strong, and the ferry looks precarious as it crosses, being tipped by the pull of the cables, with the waves washing against the upstream side of the boat.
Île-Bizard has a different character. Many of the modern houses are still large and pretentious, but less so than in Laval-sur-le-Lac. For me the attraction is the Parc-nature du Bois-de-l'Île-Bizard which is always worth a visit—we go a couple of times a year. There is a long boardwalk through marshes which is great for turtle watching and birding, and the trails are perfect for casual weekend walks, biking or cross-country skiing. One arm of the park comes out just south of the ferry dock, another on a point with a swimmable beach that looks out over Lac des Deux Montagnes and a third arm exits on the Montée de l'Église which bisects the island. Recommended.
And years ago we were exploring Île-Bizard and found large pieces of kimberlite rock, one of which still stops our living room light from falling over. The place we found it was a building site for a new house, so is now covered, but there must still be exposures on the island where it can be found.
Notes on some names …
The ferry docks in Laval on land that used to be undeveloped, but is now full of pretentious housing, and goes by the name Laval-sur-le-Lac, which I suspect is a modern invention, though its golf course dates to 1917. Most sources give this name to the Laval side of the ferry, but the ferry's own website shows Sainte-Dorothée. The island itself was called Île Jésus, but all the municipalities on it were merged in 1965 into one city called Laval, and most people now simply call the island Laval.
Île-Bizard seems always to have been used both as the name of the island and of the municipality, although now it is part of the Montreal borough of L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève.
Technically the Ottawa River ends at Lac des deux Montagnes, and then splits into several branches as it flows around the Hochelaga Archipelago, before everything merges into the Saint Lawrence. The Île-Bizard ferry crosses one of the branches of the Rivière des Prairies and the Rivière des Mille Îles defines the north of Laval, but all are channels of the Ottawa, the Rivière des Outaouais.
The Hochelaga Archipelago is the name for the collection of islands around Montreal where the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa rivers joint together, but I can't say I've ever heard anyone use that name.
3 minutes crossing time
3 minutes crossing time
$4.75 for car and passengers
Traverse Laval Île Bizard Inc.
When I used the ferry
1978. Most recently September 2017