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Reaction ferry

File:St Alban reaction ferry, Basel, Switzerland.jpg
Reaction ferry crossing the Rhine, Basel, Switzerland

A reaction ferry is a cable ferry that uses the reaction of the current of a river against a fixed tether to propel the vessel across the river. Such ferries operate faster and more effectively in rivers with strong currents.

Some reaction ferries operate using an overhead cable suspended from towers anchored on either bank of the river. Others use a floating cable attached to a single anchorage that may be on one bank or mid-channel. Where an overhead cable is used a "traveller" is usually installed on the cable and the ferry is attached to the traveller by a bridle cable. To operate the ferry either the bridle cable is adjusted or a rudder is used, causing the ferry to be angled into the current, and the force of the current moves the ferry across the river.

The ferry may consist of a single hull, or two pontoons with a deck bridging them. Some ferries carry only passengers, whilst others carry road vehicles, with some examples carrying up to 12 cars.

Worldwide usage


File:Lytton Reaction Ferry.jpg
The Lytton Ferry across the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada, is a reaction ferry using an overhead cable and traveller, visible in the upper right corner.

At one time over 30 reaction ferries crossed the rivers of British Columbia, primarily the Fraser River and the Thompson River. Those still operating include:

In Quebec, the small Laval-sur-le-Lac–Île-Bizard Ferry operates seasonally across the Rivière des Prairies from Laval-sur-le-Lac to the Île Bizard.


Reaction ferries cross the rivers Sava and Drava.

Czech Republic

The Dolní Žleb Ferry crosses the Elbe at Dolní Žleb near Děčín.

File:Gierseilfähre Aken (Elbe).jpg
The Aken Ferry, Germany


A number of reaction ferries operate in Germany, particularly across the rivers Elbe and Weser. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, they were quite common on the Rhine. Currently operating ferries include:

File:Gierfähre Westerhüsen 20070909.JPG
The Westerhüsen Ferry across the Elbe in Germany is a reaction ferry using a floating cable attached to a mid-channel anchorage, to the right of the boat.


The Traghetto di Leonardo is a historic reaction ferry across the Adda River at Imbersago. It is reputed to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.


A number of reaction ferries operate:

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The Pas de Barca Ferry on the Ebro river, in Miravet in the Catalonia region of Spain has been operating since the Middle Ages, and continues to use a traditional wooden ferry boat design.


Four ferries cross the Rhine in Basel.[4]

File:Hampton Loade Ferry - 2004-07-24.jpg
Hampton Loade Ferry, England

United Kingdom

The Hampton Loade Ferry, which carries passengers only, crosses the River Severn at Hampton Loade in Shropshire. It is operated partly by the current and partly by punting.

United States

Several reaction ferries crossed rivers in the Ozark Mountains of the central United States during the first half of the 20th century. The Akers Ferry across the Current River near Salem in Missouri remains in operation.

See also


External links