The free ferries were really only free of charge during normal working hours, which was from 6AM until noon and from 1PM until 7 PM. During the other hours there was a charge of 25 cents except after dark when the charge was doubled. The ferryman was allowed to keep these tolls. He was obligated to operate the ferry 24 hours a day and seven days a week. To be available at all hours the ferryman lived in a house furnished by the county that usually was situated on the town side.
As has long been true accidents make news. The papers in Newport, Priest River and Sandpoint always managed to cover every mishap. Only railroad accidents seemed to occur more frequently. Each incident only underscored the hazardous nature of both. Many regular users of the ferries say they were usually apprehensive when crossing. One regular user carried a life jacket under the seat of his truck. It has been alleged that many ferrymen became too casual about how they operated their boat to the point where it was inferred anyone could do it.
One cause of many accidents was due to the failure to adequately secure the ferry prior to loading and unloading. The correct procedure required that the boat be chained to the loading ramp. By using the paddle wheels to push against the ramp some effort and time could be spared. Unfortunately when the power was inadequate conventional drive vehicles tended to push the boat away. In the winter ice on the ramps only made the situation worse.
Another factor was that in the days before automatic transmissions drivers often turned off the engine with the car in gear. This practice kept the car from rolling which was fine until the clutch was depressed or the engine started with the car in gear. Loss of control when the ferry was a few feet from shore could be and was disastrous, all because of not setting the hand brake.
Each ferryboat carried a long oar to be used for steering in the event of an emergency. A few carried a small rowboat.
While it may be said that a ferry crossing is a ferry crossing, each was unique. No two operated for the same length of time. While they all operated for the same reason, each situation was different as were the operators. Only three were bridged out. Several simply ceased to be used and one was discontinued because the money could be better used for roads. End of the Introduction.