Roads and Ferries and Cars… oh my!

Jun 15, 2015 | 2 comments

Shamrock and Reliable, Passenger Ferries

Shamrock and Reliable, Passenger Ferries

I get the most interesting emails from folks who ‘find’ me because of my Oysterville Daybook blog. Yesterday it was a man named Dave who collects highway maps and guides. He was writing in response to something I wrote about ferries (I think), though he was non-specific as to which blog in particular.

He says only: I discovered it while looking for information concerning a ferry across Willapa Bay as a part of a little research on the Ocean Beach Highway (State 6 and US 101 today) in the late teens and early 20’s of the last century. And he goes on to say:

Chehalis to Nahcotta, 1921

Chehalis to Nahcotta, 1919

The matter that relates to your interest are the citations concerning a ferry between Nemah and Nahcotta in that period. I haven’t exhausted my resources, but two citations are of interest. My 1919 Automobile Club of Western Washington strip map (attached) shows a ferry, and my 1921 Automobile Blue Book also notes a ferry, and makes note that it connects to a road south from Nahcotta.

Willapa Harbor - Chehalis Ferry Schedule

Willapa Harbor to Chehalis Route, 1921

What makes it especially interesting is that it was very probably an auto ferry! In 1919 the Ocean Beach Highway from Chehalis ended around Nemah. The extension southward that would soon reach the Long Beach peninsula was not yet competed. 1923 maps show the road completed, so by 1923, and probably sooner, the road was completed to the peninsula.

Along with a bit of speculation, he included three attachments – the above mentioned strip map and two pages from the Blue Book listing the route/distances from Chehalis (via Pe El, Raymond and South Bend) to Willapa Harbor and the reverse.

I have forwarded it all to Jim Sayce who knows more about the early road system in these parts than I do. Perhaps he can shed more light on the questions that both Dave and I have – was there actually a car ferry from the Nemah to Nahcotta? Where would a car have been able to drive once it got to this side of the bay? Were there any roads ‘improved’ enough for auto use out of Nahcotta? (By 1926 the Oysterville mail was still being taken to and from Nahcotta by Mr. Lehman’s mail wagon, pulled by a mule and a horse.)

Another piece to the ever-growing Community History puzzle! I just love it when my blog results in contacts and information like this. Keep it coming, folks!


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    My friend Bill Sodja had a map showing a bridge between the Peninsula and the mainland. When I am driving the bay road on my way to the beach, especially when we lived in, I longed for a bridge to the Peninsula, but once home had little desire to make it easy on tourists. I have a love hate relationship with them. There were Peninsula residents who felt similarly about the Merger bridge. Still, a ferry across the bay would be pleasant.

  2. Mark Bozanich

    Dave had also contacted me a few days ago. I have a website called Highways of Washington State on

    You had an entry on your blog Oysterville Daybook dated February 5th, 2014 discussing ferries on Willapa Bay. The entry included photographs of barges carrying cars. These may have been the only car “ferries” on Willapa Bay. I would speculate that these ferries were a stopgap measure for use until the highway connecting South Bend and Ilwaco was completed in the mid 1920s and the highway connecting Aberdeen with Raymond was completed in 1930.

    At other areas where auto ferries were used, such as on the Columbia River, the ferry services were of longer term duration. Small ferry boats were built specifically for these crossings rather than barges. A few of these ferry routes still exist, although the ferry boats themselves have been replaced periodically by newer, larger boats.


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