Take the Ferry at Fredericktown

Even near the City of Bridges, there are other ways to cross a river



You might expect a ferryboat in coastal New England, on Staten Island, in Puget Sound near Seattle, at Ocracoke on the Outer Banks or in some old Western when a train of covered wagons has to get across a big river. There's something old, slightly exotic and maybe even romantic about a ferry.

We're not used to them around here. But there is one. On the Mon, at Fredericktown, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, a small and efficient, bright-red, cable-guided boat named Frederick regularly hauls vehicles back and forth between LaBelle (locals say LAY-bell) and Fredericktown. Six days a week.

If you're in that neighborhood, the two- or three-minute ferry ride can save you from driving to either of the nearest bridges, which are about 15 miles away.

The day when I stopped with my video camera crew, Ron Columbia was the pilot operating the ferry. He directs vehicles into position on the flat little boat. He starts the engines. He collects tolls, makes small talk. He helps keep the trip pleasant. He's conductor/engineer/porter all in one.

"Yeah," said Ron. "I like it. I like the people who come across. I enjoy talking to them. I see a car across the river, sitting on the other side; I just start over there and go pick them up. Go load them up. Bring them back across; drop them off. About a hundred times in an eight-hour period."
Some local historians will tell you there's been a ferry here since 1790. Ferries were usually positioned at points on a river where people had multiple reasons to go back and forth, and often the site of a ferry crossing was where a bridge would eventually be built.

In 1967, when it was privately owned, this ferry stopped operating, apparently for a number of reasons, but in 1977, it was rehabilitated and revived. Since then it's profited greatly from new traffic going to and from the recently built maximum-security state prison on top of the hill on the Fayette County side. The ferry is now jointly owned by Fayette and Washington counties. The river is the county line.
Sadly now it looks as though a new $95 million bridge - part of toll road 43, the Mon-Fayette Expressway, or as we call it in our van, "The

Loneliest Highway" because of the small number of cars using it - could make this ferry superfluous and obsolete. That bridge, which would be 4 miles down river, is scheduled to be complete in 2012. It's just plans right now, but progress can be fast.

So this summer is the perfect time for a day trip to Fredericktown. Ride the ferry. Get a new view of the Monongahela Valley and a better understanding of what's on the other side of the river.
 


Rick Sebak produces, writes and narrates documentaries for WQED tv13, as well as national specials for PBS. His programs are available online or call 800/274-1307.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.
Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

More than 80 years after its demise was erroneously reported, the David McCullough Bridge still stands as an engineering and architectural highlight among the city’s many spans.
Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Their tic-tac-toe passing would impress Mike Sullivan.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Chalk It Up

Chalk It Up

Doodle while you dine, or let your imagination run wild, with chalkboard placemats from Pittsburgh-based Chalk Lots.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments