Family and ferries are something that go hand in hand for Cory Sandness.
Throughout his 21 years with the Ministry of Highways Cory has spent his fair share of time around ferries. Cory is a marine specialist in the ministry’s Air and Marine Operations division. He’s responsible for policy, technical expertise, training, and strategic long- and short-term planning.
Being a ferry operator Is nothing new to Cory.
“I was born and raised at the Weldon ferry and the river has always had a special place in my heart. I grew up trapping, fishing, and hunting there and during that time I have a gained a huge respect for the river and what it provides to not only me and my family but also to our province and all its people,” Sandness said.
In 1905, when Saskatchewan became a province and assumed responsibility for ferry service, 17 cable ferries and one steam-powered ferry crossed its waterways. By 1926, there were 47, carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers, vehicles, horses, and cattle every year.
“My grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side were both ferry operators. My grandfather started as a ferry operator at Birch Hills and later moved to the Weldon ferry as head operator. He retired in 1984 after 31 years of service. My grandmother worked at the Birch Hills ferry until it closed and then worked part-time at the Weldon ferry until my grandfather retired,” Sandness said.
Although Cory is unsure of how many years of service his grandmother had, she was a trailblazer in the industry.
“She was likely one of the first (If not the first) female operators in the history of Saskatchewan ferries and is also a Treaty Status Indian and residential school survivor,” he said.
Today 12 ferries, one barge and more than 50 operators provide free daily service from spring, usually in April, until freeze-up. Each river ferry accommodates six cars. The Riverhurst ferry on Lake Diefenbaker, can carry 15 cars. These ferries are an essential link in Saskatchewan’s road network.
“The ferries link people, communities and rural locations to our highway system. They provide options for emergency needs, goods and services delivery, evacuations due to forest fires and bridge closures as well as travel short-cuts, recreational activities and tourism,” Sandness said.
Sandness said they’re also an important link for farmers to access their land and deliver parts and fuel.
If you’ve never been on a Saskatchewan ferry, perhaps it’s time to try something new. If you catch a ride with Cory, you may even hear a ferry tale.