Elwell Ferry Closed until May 30

Elwell Ferry
Elwell Ferry (DOT photo)

Elwell Ferry across the Cape Fear River will be closed through the month of May while a pulley is replaced.

The ferry is the last inland cable ferry in the state. Andrew Barksdale of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation said the pulley has developed a crack that makes it unsafe to operate.

“The pulley could break while the ferry was in midriver,” he explained.

If a suitable pulley cannot be found in state storage, Barksdale said, a new one will be fabricated.

“The ferry is going to be back running again,” he said. “The wear on the old pulley was just too much, and DOT decided to err on the side of caution and replace it.”

The ferry has spent more time on the hill than in the water over the past year, due to low water, mechanical issues and a change in management of the ferry. A new contractor is set to take over operations, Barksdale said, and  the boat and engine are in excellent mechanical condition.

The ferry connects Kelly and N.C. 53 on the east bank of the river and Carvers on N.C. 87 on the west side. It’s a popular route for tourists, bicyclists, and daily commuters. The ferry is the only other option for crossing the river between U.S. 701 at Elizabethtown and N.C. 11.

Barksdale said DriveNC.gov has real-time updates not just on the ferry, but on all state maintained highways. The website can be searched by route or county.

Elwell Ferry has been in operation since 1905. It originally used a “pull stick” and cable, and later switched to a gasoline engine. After an explosion during World War II, the ferry was switched to diesel. The ferry recently underwent a complete refit.

Both ferry landings are popular destinations for fishing, picnics, camping and birdwatching. The Wildlife Resources Commission maintains a new boat launch area on the Carvers side of the river.

About Jefferson Weaver 2033 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].