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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, whilst 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


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

In Quebecmarker, the small Laval-sur-le-Lac Île-Bizard Ferrymarker operates seasonally across the Rivière des Prairies from Laval-sur-le-Lacmarker to the Île Bizardmarker.


Reaction ferries cross the rivers Sava and Drava.

Czech Republic

The Dolní Žleb Ferrymarker crosses the Elbe at Dolní Žleb near Děčínmarker.

The Coswig Ferry.


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

Traghetto di Leonardo


The Traghetto di Leonardo is a historic reaction ferry across the Adda Rivermarker at Imbersagomarker. It is reputed to have been designed by Leonardo de Vinci.


Reaction ferries operate across the rivers Vistula, Oder, Warta, Dunajec and San Rivermarker


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


Four ferries cross the Rhinemarker in Baselmarker.

Hampton Loade Ferry

United Kingdom

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

United States

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

See also


External links

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