The historic last-of-its-kind hand cranked chain ferry will return for the 2024 summer season.

Did you know the Saugatuck Ferry is so iconic it even has its own Wikipedia page?!

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In operation since 1838 the Saugatuck Chain Ferry is touted as,

the only remaining hand-cranked chain ferry of its kind remaining in the United States.

Local historians say the first ferry was put into operation after the bridge that connected Oval Beach to downtown Saugatuck, Michigan washed away. Many visitors used the ferry to climb Mt. Baldhead or have a beachside picnic, but some children used it to get to school!

Saugatuck Chain Ferry
Saugatuck Chain Ferry - MLive via YouTube

Thanks to the popularity of automobiles ferry use among locals dried up and modern bridges were installed to access the beaches and lakeshore, but the ferry returned in 1965 when local businessman R.J. Peterson restored the chain ferry-- naming it after his wife, Diane.

How Does It Work?

The ferry is guided by a chain that runs beneath the Kalamazoo River. The chain is connected to docks on both sides of the river and as the ferry operator hand-cranks the gear, the ferry is guided from one side of the river to the other.

The ride lasts about 3 minutes and is a unique way to get from downtown Saugatuck to Oval Beach or, for those brave enough, the 303 steps of Mt. Baldhead.

How To Catch a Ride

Starting each Memorial Day weekend, the chain ferry departs daily every 10-15 minutes, based on demand. For the 2024 season a one-way ride cost $2 with dogs, bikes, and strollers riding for free. "Diane" can accommodate up to 26 passengers.

If you've never taken a ride along the Saugatuck chain ferry, it's worth doing at least once as it's a unique piece of history that's right here in Pure Michigan!

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