The Badger Ferry Scow – 55 Years Connecting Two sides of the Exploits River.

If you traveled across Newfoundland anywhere East of Bishop’s Falls during the 1950’s chances are you will remember Joe Hampton’s car ferry. A barge connected to a cable that crossed the Exploits River. Most people would be surprised to learn that it operated for less than ten years, and that there was another similar crossing on the Exploits, one which operated for a much longer period of time.

The Badger scow ferry crossing on the Exploits River operated for about 55 years. Soon after the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company started producing paper at Grand Falls it acquired timber limits in the Badger area and started their second logging division. One problems was that a huge swath of these timber areas were on the south side of the Exploits, an area with no road or rail connection. So someone, sometime in these early years had the idea to run a cable across the Exploits and to attach a boat to it. In fact, the idea may have pre-dated the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company starting operations in Badger, though I am not banking on ever knowing.

Ferry on Exploits River at Badger.jpg
One of the few colour pictures of this scene. The Landing on the south side of the Exploits River, as viewed from the Badger side, circa 1960. The tower for the scow cable can be seen near the middle next to the small shed. At the time operations in the Sandy District of Badger Division were in full swing. (Photo courtesy of Mac Squires)

The cable ferry was designed to use the current of the river as motive power, the scow was set at an angle so that it was carried across the 800 foot plus stretch of river “at a rate of about 5 miles per hour.”(Western Star, 1944)

By this method: people, supplies, trucks, tractors and horses were all conveyed over the river. On the other side was the Sandy Motor Road, which, by at least 1941, went into the bush some 26 Miles or more to Sandy Brook. Even before this time the ferry was connected to portage trails to areas like Black Duck, Pamehac Brook, Tom Joe Brook, and Red Indian Falls.

Badger Scow 1.jpg
Unlike Joe Hampton’s ferry at Bishop’s Falls, the Badger scow used the current of the river to get across. All manner of supplies and equipment were brought over this way.

This method was not ideal, there were certain times of the year when navigating the channel was quite challenging and there were some men in Badger who were noted for there skill in getting the scow across. Usually beginning in January, the river would freeze up enough that it was used as an ice bridge.

Hardwoods truck badger july 1956 daily news
Scow being loaded with a truck loaded with birch logs for the Newfoundland Hardwoods operation that was active in the Badger area in the mid 1950’s. The Newfoundland Hardwoods Operation in Badger is another story altogether. Note that I am not entirely sure if this was the scow crossing at Badger or the other closer to Noel Paul’s Brook which I note at the end of this article. This speculation is due to the fact that Hardwoods was cutting in the Noel Paul area(Max Day, Daily News)

But the haul-off normally started before the river froze over and the scow had to be used to bring over horses and tractors. Even during the waning days of the woods horse, 1960, it was noted that about 65 horses crossed over to “Sandy” on the scow. By that time the landing on the “Sandy” side was a busy place, with a number of buildings such as barns and warehouses, as well as a set of fuel tanks for the scores of tractors and trucks operating on that side of the river.

Horses crossing the Exploits River on the Badger scow, 1960. The original caption noted that over a two day period, 65 horses were moved across the river on the scow. One average seven horses we aboard per trip. (A.N.D News-Log)

The beginning of the end for the scow came in 1962 when a bridge was completed across the Exploits River at Grand Falls. So that ended its use, right? There was a stay of execution, that kept it going for another three years. Although the bridge was across, the road from Grand Falls still hadn’t gone very far on the south side of the river. There were still logging camps and logging operations in the Noel Paul, Sandy and Cripple Back area that were not connected to the new road, nor had Sandy Brook been bridged.

In later years a “tunnel boat” was used for quick trips not requiring the scow.

In 1965 the new road and a new bridge crossed Sandy Brook and was connected to the old Sandy Motor Road and the need for the scow was gone. The bridge had a number of advantages over the old ferry as it had less weight restriction, and most importantly it could be used year round, unlike the ferry, which could not operated certain times during the winter and spring.

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“The other side” of the badger ferry crossing, circa 1960. After 50 years of logging most of the camps were a long ways down the Sandy Road. (Abitibi -Price/Andy Barker)

With the curtailment of logging operations around Twin Lakes and Noel Paul Brook and the beginning of logging operations closer to Grand Falls, there was no longer need to base operations out of Badger. Around the same time that the scow ended service most of the old logging Badger Division became part of the new consolidated Bishop’s Falls Division as Price Newfoundland consolidated four logging divisions into two: Millertown and Bishop’s Falls.

The cable scow at Badger wasn’t the only ferry crossing of this type operated by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. In the 1940s and 50s there was a ferry crossing near the outlet of Michael’s Brook on the Exploits River. Foreman-Contractor Ford Ball operated in a section of Badger Division on the western side of Noel Paul’s Brook. At the time this was far from the roads supplying the camps in Badger Division or Millertown Division. So these camps were actually connected to the Buchans or Millertown Railway via a road and this second cable ferry. This cable ferry was also used by Newfoundland Hardwoods when they were operating in the area in the 1950s.

-Bryan Marsh

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