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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Merrimac in Columbia County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The Merrimac Ferry

 
 
The Merrimac Ferry Marker image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
1. The Merrimac Ferry Marker
Inscription. Merrimac’s first permanent settler, Chester Mattson, obtained a territorial charter in 1848 to provide ferry service across the Wisconsin River. The State Legislature of 1851 authorized a road, subsequently to become State Trunk Highway 113, to con­nect settlements at Madison and Baraboo via Matt’s Ferry. Today, the Merrimac Ferry is the lone survivor of upwards of 500 ferries chartered by territorial and state legislatures before the turn of the century.

The fee charged by early ferrymen for taking a team and wagon across the river was well earned, for their muscles pro­vided a good share of the ferry’s power until a gasoline engine was added around 1900.

The ferry changed hands several times before Matt’s Ferry Road was added to the state system in 1923 and Columbia and Sauk Counties took over its opera­tion. The name Colsac is a phonetic derivation of the two county names. The State of Wisconsin assumed responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the ferry in 1933, after which the service was provided without charge.
 
Erected 1973 by the Wisconsin Historical Society. (Marker Number 187.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Wisconsin Historical Society marker series.
 
Location. 43° 
The Merrimac Ferry Marker image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, June 2, 2013
2. The Merrimac Ferry Marker
21.94′ N, 89° 37.146′ W. Marker is near Merrimac, Wisconsin, in Columbia County. Marker is on State Highway 113, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at the wayside near the east bank (south side) of the Wisconsin River, just east of the ferry crossing. Marker is in this post office area: Merrimac WI 53561, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. St. Mary's of the Pines (approx. 5.2 miles away); Civilian Conservation Corps (approx. 5.6 miles away); Historic Tree (approx. 6 miles away); Early History of Devil's Lake (approx. 6.2 miles away); North Shore Hotel Era (approx. 6.2 miles away); Devil's Lake and the Local Residents (approx. 6.2 miles away); South Shore Hotel Era (approx. 6.2 miles away); Ice Age National Scientific Reserve (approx. 6.2 miles away).
 
More about this marker. Merrimac is in Sauk County; marker is in Columbia County.
 
Regarding The Merrimac Ferry. The Merrimac Ferry is still a sturdy and popular survivor among the river ferries.

In Wisconsin, for instance, the former Division of Highways built a new Interstate bridge across the Wisconsin River at Portage, then found that thousands of motorists were still driving 25 miles out of their way to wait
The Merrimac Ferry Marker image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
3. The Merrimac Ferry Marker
The ferry crossing is to the left of the marker. A railroad bridge over the Wisconsin River is in the background of this photo.
in line for a chance to cross the river little faster than they could walk.

The trip is free; the scenery superb. But the main factor in its popularity is pure nostalgia... one of the reasons it survived the bridge boom of the early 1900s and is now the only ferry remaining on the state trunk highway network.

The peak of the season comes in August when up to 1,200 vehicles a day create a line up of 50 or more vehicles waiting their turn for the ferry. Small stands line the road on both approaches, dispensing soft drinks and ice cream at a staggering rate.

No accurate counts exist to determine the number of tourists, but estimates are in the range of 150,000 to 200,000—not bad for a village with less than 300 population.

Source: excerpt from http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/water/merrimac-history.htm
 
Also see . . .  Merrimac Ferry. Wisconsin Department of Transportation Web site with Merrimac Ferry, Frequently Asked Questions, History, and Operations Web pages. (Submitted on July 30, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.) 
 
Categories. Roads & VehiclesSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels
 
State Highway 113 & Ferry image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
4. State Highway 113 & Ferry
Photo taken in Columbia County, looking toward Sauk County. The mile-long crossing takes about seven minutes.
Merrimac Ferry Colsac III image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
5. Merrimac Ferry Colsac III
The 15-car, $2.2 million (2003) Colsac III was constructed by Basic Marine in Escanaba, Michigan.
Car Lanes on Ferry image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
6. Car Lanes on Ferry
Life Boat image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
7. Life Boat
Wisconsin River/Lake Wisconsin image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
8. Wisconsin River/Lake Wisconsin
Looking upriver toward railroad bridge.
Plaques image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
9. Plaques
Colsac III Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, June 2, 2013
10. Colsac III Bridge
Merrimac Ferry Sign image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, July 27, 2007
11. Merrimac Ferry Sign
Photo of the Columbia County entrance to the ferry crossing.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 29, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 2,582 times since then and 39 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 29, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.   2. submitted on June 4, 2013, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.   3. submitted on July 29, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.   4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on July 30, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.   10. submitted on June 4, 2013, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.   11. submitted on August 1, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.
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