Gifford, Washington – If you think Washington State ferries can only be found in the Puget Sound-area, you are wrong. Those of us who live here in Eastern Washington can get on a ferry a lot closer than Seattle: like the Inchelium-Gifford Ferry.
Affectionately known as “The Gif” it runs between Inchelium – which is located on the Colville Reservation west of the Lake Roosevelt – and Gifford, a small town on Highway 25, north of Hunters in Stevens County.
The open ferry takes cars, trucks, motorcycles and the occasional pedestrian across the lake. The ferry is considered part of the state highway system, so it’s free to ride as often as you like.
Today the ferry is operated by the Colville Confederated Tribes on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It’s a low-key affair – there are no plush lounges to sit in or espresso drinks to purchase – but hey, the crossing is only about 10 minutes.
On a warm summer day, the brief ride provides a great break from driving and you can watch swallows dive for insects across the smooth water as you rumble across.
There has been a ferry in this location since 1898. This spot was most likely chosen because it was a short and somewhat protected distance from one side to the other of what was then the free-flowing Columbia River. The small communities of Gifford and Inchelium sat on opposite riverbanks, but when the Grand Coulee Dam was built farther south and west on the Columbia in 1940, the flood water rose and created what we today know as Lake Roosevelt.
Like other smaller communities, the original site of Inchelium was flooded by the new lake and the city had to move to the higher ground, where it sits today.
The Gif closed for a while in the early 1970s but since 1982 The Columbia Princess has ferried travelers across every day, seven days a week between 6:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Information on schedule can be found online.
A bit father west, the Keller Ferry connects Highway 21 on the north and the south side of Lake Roosevelt