A video can be purchased from the ferryboat captain that details much of the ferryboat history on the Missouri River in Montana. Lone Writer was taken across the river by Susan Sanford. There are plenty of stories about her on the Internet. Her family has been in charge of ferry operations for nearly three decades. Her mother, Grace Sanford, was quoted as saying running the ferry was the best job she ever had. One writer proclaimed Susan to be the "Ferry Princess." Another writer tells how the previous ferryboat used to stall in the middle of the river and Susan would swim out to repair it. Still another tells how she shot a rattlesnake that attempted to board the ferry. She is a friendly lady with plenty of local stories to tell.
Lone Writer left the ferry landing and continued north. As with the south side, the road provided a narrow, winding, and very scenic drive from the river bottom to the top of the level plains.
Once on top of the plains, the road continues north to the intersection for Cow Island Trail. Although it still retains the name "trail," it is actually a graded county road. In the early years, steamboats frequently could not get any farther upriver than Cow Island due to shallow water over the Dauphine Rapids north of the island. Shipments were transferred from the boats to wagons at that point and taken on to Fort Benton using the Cow Island Trail.
Lone Writer drove east along the Cow Island Trail until it reached Cow Creek. The original trail following the creek to Cow Island is for hikers and horseback riders only. The county road continues east along a road noted in TopoUSA as Timber Ridge. Signs on the road did not confirm that name; however, they did provide mileage distance to many designations. Eventually, the road connected to paved Highway 66 north of Landusky.
The ferryboat can carry more than one car at a time. An average of 10 vehicles a day use
Susan Sanford is the ferryboat captain and is often referred to as the "Ferry Princess."
Several buildings still stand. It is unclear if they were built for the Ruby Mine and Mil
The road passes Thornhill Peak where Jim Thornhill's ranch once stood. Thornhill was Kid Curry's best friend in Montana. He provided horses and other supplies for the outlaws after the Exeter Creek train robbery and kept watch over the ranch where the Curry brothers lived prior to Kid Curry's gunfight with Pike Landusky. That story was detailed in last month's issue (Dec. '07) of Off-Road.
Lone Writer drove into Landusky and stopped at the Montana Gulch Campground. He decided the best campsites were already taken, so he went back out to Highway 66 and continued south to the first major gravel road going west. There was no street sign, but the road is called Bull Creek. It also accesses the abandoned Power Plant Ferry location. For anyone wishing to hike into Hideaway Coulee to search for the remains of Kid Curry's hideout cabin, Bull Creek Road is the way to go.
At about 11.5 miles into the road, a two-track with a designated BLM trail number branches off to the left. Taking that road passes the remains of an old log cabin. Across the track from that cabin is a hilltop with a faint trail downhill to a branch off Hideaway Coulee. If you find the cabin, you will be doing better than Lone Writer did. Please send photos and GPS positions.
Lone Writer continued past the turnoff for Hideaway Coulee and turned left at the sign for Power Plant Trail. He found a nice hilltop campsite and set the tent up just as the sun dropped below the horizon.
The road drops into the breaks and stops on the banks of the Missouri River. The poles that once kept the ferry from floating downstream are still in place but barely standing. There are several buildings including one with a grass rooftop. The smaller, one-room buildings would have made good living quarters for workers or even to rent out to travelers.
The original power plant built at this location ran on coal, which produced steam to power the generators. The power was used to operate a mine and mill. The ferry was in operation from 1916 to 1923 when the mill burned down.
Lone Writer left the ferry landing and went back to the intersection at the top of the breaks. He then took the other fork in the road going down to Cow Island. This is the most scenic and absolutely the most beautiful drive in the Missouri Breaks. The colors in the landscape jump out at every turn, and the views into the river bottoms are unequalled. The road itself is washed out, narrow, and steep. When coming out, please use 4-Lo to prevent wheelspin that could cause more damage and erosion.