July 31, 2008
The historic Menor’s ferry boat is operating for the summer season, now that a high flow on the Snake River has subsided. Visitors can once again take a free ferry ride—with a qualified park ranger operating the helm—across the Snake River between Bill Menor’s store and Dornan’s. Located north of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park, the ferry is a central feature of the Menor/Noble historic district. The ferry provides park visitors with a unique opportunity to ride on an historic replica boat while learning firsthand about Jackson Hole’s settlement and transportation history.
Menor’s ferry consists of a platform deck which is set upon two pontoons for flotation. The ferry is tethered to a cable system that spans the river and operates by directing the pontoons toward the opposite riverbank, allowing the power of the current to push the craft across the river channel; the system uses river power, rather than motor power, to push the ferry across the water. This type of river travel existed in ancient times and was widely used throughout the U. S.
Bill Menor built the ferry in 1894, shortly after he arrived to homestead on the banks of the Snake River. Prior to ferry service, residents who lived primarily on the east bank of the river could only cross when the flow was low enough to ford, or when they traveled south to the small village of Wilson, Wyoming where they could cross over on a bridge. After the ferry began its operation, residents made regular trips to Menor’s homestead in order to cross the river to gather berries and firewood or to purchase wares from Menor’s general store.
Menor charged 25 cents for a horse and rider to cross the river and 50 cents for a team and wagon; pedestrians rode across for free. After the ferry was sold to Maud Noble in 1918, the price increased to one dollar for automobiles with local license plates, and higher fares for those from out-of-state. The original ferry became obsolete and ceased operation in 1927, when the State of Wyoming built a highway bridge across the river, just south of the Menor homestead.
The current ferry is a replica of Menor’s original craft. It was constructed by the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park and officially dedicated on August 25, 2000, as part of the park’s 50th anniversary celebration.