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Tennessee's Benton-Houston Ferry

Inland ferries are oftentimes simple - they carry a handful of cars in a remote area where traffic volumes do not justify the need for a bridge.  Some are short, others are longer, and many do not have a lot of scenery.  Fortunately, many have a long and storied history.

Middle Tennessee's Benton-Houston Ferry is a more recent ferry crossing that carries Tennessee Highway 147 across the Tennessee River. It began operation in November 2007 and connects Benton and Houston Counties. The cost to cross is $1 per vehicle.

While it is a new ferry, there is still plenty of history around you. The Houston County ferry landing is located in the former town of Danville.  Danville was a Tennessee River community that flooded over when Kentucky Lake formed in the 1940s. There are a few remnants of Danville that you can still see from the ferry.

The remains of the former Danville Transfer Elevator stand above the waters of Kentucky Lake.

When you enter the ferry from the Houston County side and look to your left - you will see the shell of an old building standing over the water.  It appears to be on stilts - but it was once a much larger structure.  The building is a former six-story transfer elevator and warehouse that once sat along the Tennessee River.  The Danville Freight Elevator was built in 1914 and handled grain, cotton, minerals, and other items shipped along the Tennessee River.  A six-mile rail spur connected the warehouse and elevator to the main line of the Louisville & Nashville railroad.  When Kentucky Lake was formed, many towns like Danville were dismantled; however, the old transfer elevator and warehouse remained.

The remaining spans of the 1930s-era railroad bridge over the lake.

A second remnant near the Houston County landing is the two remaining spans of a former Louisville & Nashville bridge over the lake.  The bridge was built in the 1930s - replacing an older bridge over the Tennessee River.  When the railroad abandoned the line in the 1980s, all but two of the spans were removed. 

The ferry ride is a scenic ride over the lake and doesn't last too long. It is an enjoyable detour to take while on a day trip or just out exploring.

All photos taken by post author - December 2010.

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