White's Ferry

White's Ferry on the Potomac River

White's Ferry is the only cable ferry service that carries cars, bicycles, and pedestrians across the Potomac River. White's Ferry is located at 39°9′17.26″N 77°31′13.50″W / 39.1547944°N 77.5204167°W / 39.1547944; -77.5204167. The location offers fishing services and rentals of water recreation including canoeing. The street address for the terminal on the Maryland side is 24801 White's Ferry Road, Dickerson, Maryland 20842.


Early settlers recognized that the relatively still waters of the Potomac River at the location would provide an ideal location for a ferry. The first known ferry operation at the location was Conrad's Ferry, pronounced contemporaneously by the locals as "Coonrod's Ferry" [1] in 1817. After the Civil War, former Confederate officer Elijah V. White purchased it and made many improvements to the service. He named his ferry boat in honor of his former commander, General Jubal Anderson Early.[2]

Maryland Route 107 (White's Ferry Road) crosses the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at White's Ferry. Note the stone ruins of the granary on the left

Currently the ferry is owned by Malcolm Brown, whose father purchased the location in 1946 with other business partners. He eventually bought out his partners and shipped new ferries from Baltimore in 1953 and from Norfolk in 1988; both of which were named after Confederate General Jubal A. Early because of his, "rebellious, no surrender attitude". [3]

Current operation

The Jubal A. Early runs continuously from 5 am to 11 pm, unless major flooding occurs or there is increased debris or ice. Fares range from $1 for pedestrians to $12 for large trucks.

The ferry can hold a maximum of 24 cars in a single trip and takes under 2 minutes to load, 5 minutes to cross, and another 2 minutes to unload, depending on traffic and the height of the river.

The ferry's store sells groceries and bait, and offers rental services for rowboats, canoes and the location's picnic tables.

Each May, White's Ferry hosts an event honoring wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Escorted to the area by a large motorcycle honor guard, the soldiers enjoy a day of music, food, fishing, and rides on the ferry. The event is sponsored by the town of Poolesville, Maryland, and receives support from many groups and individuals within the community.[4]

Recent events

Loading on the Virginia side, with a view of the Maryland side
Crossing the river on the Gen. Jubal A. Early

On September 13, 2006, the United States Coast Guard ordered White's Ferry to be shut down because the operator was unlicensed. The ferry continued to operate in spite of the order.[5] The next day the Coast Guard allowed the ferry to resume operations after the owners assured the Coast Guard that there would be licensed individuals on the vessel. For operating without a licensed operator the ferry was fined $8000, which it could appeal.[6]

On December 12, 2008, passengers were evacuated from the ferry when it became stuck shortly after 8:10 a.m. during a routine crossing from Maryland to Virginia.[7]

On December 10, 2009, nearly 30 passengers were stranded on White's Ferry in the Potomac River for about three hours when the boat was snagged by a tree floating downstream.[8]

On December 2, 2010, nine vehicles, along with 14 passengers, were stranded on White's Ferry when it became hung up on debris floating down the Potomac River. As workers removed the debris, more came down the river and snapped the ferry's cable. The boat came to rest about 150 yards downstream.[9]

On December 4, 2015, the ferry's underwater cable broke while carrying twelve vehicles and several passengers. No one was injured in the incident. The ferry floated 500 yards downstream until it was secured by onlookers on shore.[10]

On September 30, 2016, an allegedly intoxicated driver boarded the unmanned ferry during early morning hours and drove off the other side, into the Potomac River. A ferry operator that was nearby rescued the driver from the water. The car was towed from the river the following morning. The driver was charged with Driving Under the Influence.[11]

Cultural references


  1. "Our War Correspondence From The Divisions of Banks and Stone". The New York Times. November 1, 1861. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  2. Peck, Garrett (2012). The Potomac River: A History and Guide. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-1609496005.
  3. Barned-Smith, St. John (November 1, 2012). "White's Ferry's swift trips across the Potomac have long history". The Gazette. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  4. Stern, Nicholas C. (May 18, 2008). "Wounded veterans get time to heal at picnic". The Frederick News-Post. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  5. Kunkle, Fredrick (September 15, 2006). "Mutinous Ferry Roils the Waters". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  6. "Ferry keeps running, will be fined". Loudoun Times-Mirror. February 7, 2014.
  7. Wilgoren, Debbi (December 12, 2008). "Passengers Evacuated From Stalled Md. Ferry". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  8. Williams, Clarence (December 10, 2009). "Potomac ferry snag leaves passengers stranded". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  9. "White's Ferry passengers stranded on Potomac". WTOP-FM. December 2, 2010. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  10. "Potomac Woman Helps Rescue Ferry After it Drifts Powerless Downstream". WashingtonPost. 5 December 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  11. "Dr. Gridlock: Man drives car over White's Ferry crossing and into Potomac River". The Washington Post. 30 September 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
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