By John Clise
Crossing the mighty Mississippi River on the Dorena-Hickman Ferry was a surprise, and meaningful experience for me. It certainly gave me a new perspective of its size and power.
I wasn’t expecting such an adventure. I was driving straight through from my home in Weston, W.V., to Branson, MO. I was following the GPS and it took me on what I thought was a fairly main road. Turns out it was a country road of sorts but the fastest route to get to where I was going.
I came to a sign that said ferry with an arrow pointing down the same road the GPS voice said to turn. So I turned and sure enough, sitting there at the dock was the ferry waiting to take me to the other side.
It was the Dorena II of the Dorena-Hickman Ferry Service.
It is owned and operated by the Mississippi County Port Authority and remains as one of the few ferry services to carry automobiles, pedestrians, buggies and the like across the Mississippi. It links Hickman, KY and Dorena, MO.
I drove on to the ferry behind a truck and an SUV type of vehicle. There was a truck with a flat tire coming from the Missouri side of the river. We waited for the truck owner’s wife to bring a spare so he could get on his way.
While we were waiting, I saw a tug boat toting a couple of barges up river to points unknown.
I saw a few seagulls drifting down the river. Not actually on the river, but just flying along. Heading south I suspect for the winter.
The river looks very calm as it flows away, and yet it is so powerful. I’d crossed the Mississippi over a bridge in a car many times before. This was so different. The viewpoint was obviously much different. Definitely more hands on that crossing over on a bridge.
The wind was warm as we crossed over to the Missouri side. We took a wide swing around a bend and seemed like we were almost flying.
The river is so much wider than imagined. And the power of the water was so evident. I was trying to imagine what it was like to cross in olden days by a raft or some other dangerous way.
Truthfully, I didn’t want the ride to end.
At some point during the crossing, my friend John called. He was calling to offer me some work I think. We worked together at a couple of different newspapers over the years. Got a surprise when he asked what I was doing, and I said crossing the Mississippi on a ferry. It was a little strange talking on the phone while crossing this beautiful creation. It was a good conversation with a good friend.
I think it was the silent power of the river that struck me the most. It’s a testament to time Constant, non-stop flow that eventually eroded the river banks as it flowed south. Its flows from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, and flows generally south for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. The river and its drainage basin touch 32 states and two Canadian provinces in its vastness.
If you ever have a chance to be in the area I highly suggest you take time to use the ferry and enjoy an adventure.