Unseasonably frigid temperatures have hit White’s Ferry and its commuters hard this winter.
Operator Malcolm Brown said the ferry — which links Poolesville and Northern Virginia across the Potomac River — was closed for 11 days in January. That wasn’t a record, but it wasn’t good for business, either.
“We have been closed an entire month before,” but that was decades ago, Brown said. He declined to disclose how much money the business has lost because of the closures.
The main culprits last month were ice on the Potomac and high water. Brown said the river is moving, but there are “huge, huge sheets of ice” slowly wending their way downstream.
If the water’s surface is frozen completely, he said, the ferry can channel through it. With ice floes, the river is much more difficult to traverse.
The ferry has a capacity of 24 cars and is used mostly by commuters to Northern Virginia. A one-way ride costs $5; round trips go for $8. It’s the last Potomac River ferry in Montgomery County and one of the last in the region that cross the river.
Dan Levine of Poolesville said he takes the ferry about once a week to his workplace in Ashburn, Va. Lately, with the ferry closed, he’s had to drive up to the bridge in Point of Rocks. Levine’s commute takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes, depending on which route he takes.
If the ferry is sitting at the Maryland dock when he gets to the White’s Ferry parking lot, his commute takes 40 minutes, he said.
“There is a gamble,” he said. “It always has been, it always will be, but I’m glad [the ferry] is there.”
Commuters may call the White’s Ferry prerecorded phone line, 301-349-5200, to find out if it is closed that day.