Ferrying has long been a part of Vermont's maritime history. Whether horse-powered of motorized, carrying locomotives or automobiles, the ferry is been a simple, successful method of crossing lakes and rivers.
Prior to steam power, animal powered ferries were quite popular. A number of horse-powered ferries ran regularly between Vermont and New York on Lake Champlain. The ferries typically consisted of two horses of mules walking upon a large turntable mounted beneath the deck. The turntable controlled the paddle wheels, thus moving the craft. The era of the horse ferry lasted from about 1814 through the 1840s, although a few ferries still operated into the latter part of the 19th century. Steam power eventually replaced the primitive animal power.
Many of the modern ferry routes in operation today originated as horse ferry routes. Below are just a few of the many horse ferry routes on Lake Champlain.
A Burlington-Port Kent ferry operated for a number of years.
A Charlotte-Essex ferry, called the Eclipse, operated roughly from 1814-1830.
A Port-Henry-Chimney Point ferry, called the Gypsy, operated roughly from 1828-1858
A ferry called the Eagle operated a few routes around Basin Harbor and Arnolds Bay beginning in 1841.
During the mid-to-late 19th century, ferries carried railroad cars across Lake Champlain. In the 1860s, the Champlain Transportation Company built a 258-foot ferry called the "Oakes Ames", which carried 1,100 railroad cars per month between Burlington and Plattsburgh.
During the 1920s, the Champlain Transportation Company began service of its first auto ferry. The automobile had replaced many forms of recreational boat travel, especially steamboats. Many old steamboats were upgraded as auto ferries to stay in business, and many new ferries were constructed. Two notable auto ferries, the "City of Burlington" and "City of Plattsburgh," were built in 1936 and 1937 respectively. Auto ferries still run regularly today.