Last Potomac River ferry shuts down after more than 230 years of operation

Last Potomac River ferry shuts down after more than 230 years of operation
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The historic White’s Ferry, the last remaining ferry service to travel between Virginia and Maryland across the Potomac River, announced on Monday that it would be ceasing operations.

DCist reported that the ferry service, which has operated since the late 1700s, was shutting down due to a centuries-long legal dispute regarding the landing site on the Virginia side of the river. The website reported that the conflict comes from the location of the landing site on Rockland Farm, which was given to the ferry in 1871, though the location was never appropriately marked on the map.

"White’s Ferry regrets to inform the public that it will cease its Potomac River ferry operation between White’s Ferry Road in Montgomery County, Maryland and White’s Ferry Road in Loudoun County, Virginia effective immediately," the ferry service wrote on its Facebook page. "The Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Virginia has ruled, in the case of Rockland Farm, LLC, et al. v. White’s Ferry, Inc., that no public landing exists on the Virginia shoreline at White’s Ferry Road and the ferry is prohibited from landing at that location in Virginia."


Herb Brown, whose father relaunched the ferry service in 1946 after a decadelong hiatus, said his family made the decision to end the ferry service because a court order would have forced the service to end next week.

“We knew there was injunction coming that we couldn’t land in Virginia so we made the decision. It would make no sense in opening up for a week,” he told DCist.

Last month, Judge Stephen Sincavage ruled in favor of Rockland Farm, writing that it was uncertain whether the landing was actually on public land.

"Evidence that the ferry landing has been in ‘the same place’ for a long period of time, even back to 1871 may have persuasive value on the broader issue of location but does not provide reasonable certainty regarding the more specific issue of that location," Sincavage wrote.

One of the owners of Rockland Farm, Lily Devlin, told DCist that her family had no intention of shutting down the service and had attempted to reach several agreements beforehand.

"The owners decided they would just walk away from the business. We did not shut down the ferry. We tried everything to keep it running," she said.


Brown said the deals that were offered were too expensive for the ferry to keep operating. He did not say whether he though the ferry service would ever run again.

DCist noted that many local politicians weighed in on the ferry's closing. 

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem wrote on Twitter, "This needs to fixed immediately. White's Ferry keeps so many vehicles off of 15, 495 and 270 each day. It's an important part of our transportation infrastructure."

The Poolesville, Md., town commissioners said in a statement on Facebook, "The Poolesville Commissioners are actively working with Montgomery County and State of Maryland officials, in an attempt to keep the ferry operational."