Looking Back: Many ways to cross the Mighty Fraser River

Early Maple Ridge residents found a way to get to other side

By Shea Henry

Looking Back

Last week, we marked the 10-year anniversary of the last Albion ferry run across the Fraser River to Fort Langley. But that ferry only began operating in 1957, so what did people do for the hundred years during the settler era in Maple Ridge before the ferry?

Well the answer, like many things in the past, is however they could manage.

Depending on the season there was a multitude of ways to get across the river, and for most of our history here, the communities of Hammond, Haney, Albion, and Whonnock had a much closer connection to Langley and Fort Langley than any other. I mean, there was just a little river in between them, right?

Well that little river, despite being a short distance, is quite an adversary to traverse.

Despite all logic, the easiest time to cross the river was the dead of winter, when it used to freeze over solid. We have stories of people crossing on foot, skating across, riding horses over, pulling wagons, and even driving early cars across the ice in the early 1900s. The last car crossing was in the terribly cold winter of 1952.

All of this winter travel across the river was not without its dangers.

There are several stories of people walking or driving across and going through the ice, and being lost.

An early general store owner, Alfred Charleton, went through the ice just on the other side of the bank while attempting to walk across.

In the summer, it came down to crossing the river via small boat – row boat, canoe, or other craft. The first teacher for the Maple Ridge school, as part of his teaching duties, was required to row a boat across the river to collect children living on the far bank. This was necessary to get more students to the school in order to justify the cost of a teacher.

By the early 1920s, it was obvious from the growing population that to maintain the cultural and economic connection between Maple Ridge and Langley, a more permanent means of crossing the river was necessary. The first request for a ferry came in 1924 as a letter from Langley residents to their council, with the moral support of the Maple Ridge city council behind them. After appealing to the provincial government in Victoria, the ferry was approved in 1924, but lack of proper signatures and infrastructure for a ferry port halted the project.

Residents of both Langley and Maple Ridge then spent the next 33 years petitioning councils, the provincial governments, and the highways department to start a ferry route.

In 1936 and 1941, the ferry was again assured but never completed. Finally, in 1957, all of the infrastructure was in place to begin the ferry.

The final argument was made to the transportation department to make the ferry a part of the public transportation system and thus the Albion to Fort Langley ferry was born!

The ferry made runs for the next 52 years. Shortly after a large 50th anniversary celebration, the announcement came that the ferry would close.

Citing raising costs and the opening of the new Golden Ears Bridge, TransLink could not continue running the ferry.

The last run of the ferry was made on July 31, 2009, but the Albion ferry lives in the hearts of all Maple Ridge residents as it is dearly missed.

Shea Henry is museums curator with the Maple Ridge Museum.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

IN IT TOGETHER: Learning to learn at home

As we rethink how best to educate our children, Albion mindful instructor Alex Bruce has a few ideas

Cookies and kindness delivered to Maple Ridge seniors in isolation

An Albion boy with autism uses his artistic skills to bring smiles to those in a local care home

Pet owners encouraged to be proactive in caring for their animals

Maple Ridge SPCA shelter is closed to the public, but adoptions and fostering are still possible

LETTER: Reword it from social to mandatory distancing

Shocked that some people are not listening to the critical COVID safety rules

LETTER: Parent, have a serious discussion with your children, please

Teens seen strolling together, up-close, and failing to abide by social distancing rules

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Bars, cannabis sector eligible for $40B credit program from government bank

Applicants must go through their own banks to access the program

Immunocompromised community call for more options to get groceries during COVID-19

One woman has decided to build a greenhouse to ensure she is able to access food throughout pandemic

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Insurance shock for B.C. condo owners

Claim-free two-year-old townhouse complex told premium will nearly triple

Most Read