For the first half of the 20th century, Hite Ferry at Dandy Crossing was the only way across the Colorado River along hundreds of miles along the northern edge of Glen Canyon.

Hite, Utah is located on the northern end of Lake Powell along the Colorado River. It was named after Cass Hite who came to Glen Canyon in 1883. He came after Navajo associates told him there was gold in the Colorado River. Soon, a small ‘Gold Rush’ ensued and prospectors and others settled at Hite, Utah. It served as a small trading outpost on a river bar of the Colorado. Since Hite was located in an easily navigable part of the river, it received another name - Dandy Crossing. After the gold was deemed too fine to be profitable, the outpost went quiet but by 1900, Hite evolved into an important crossing point of the Colorado River.

In the late 1890s, Arthur Chaffin came to Hite with his father and brothers looking for gold. After little luck with placer mining they gave up and went their separate ways. Chaffin traveled across the West, eventually returning to Hite in the 1920s to run an outpost. At times Chaffin was the only person living in Hite, operating the “tent motel,” post office, and ferry. In the 1930s as the automobile came more into use, Chaffin began a life-long quest to make Hite accessible to cars. As other mineral booms occurred in the region, Chaffin took advantage of the largest - the uranium boom. He requested that local city councils help build better roads to Hite. Then, since Hite was situated at an important Colorado River crossing, he established a ferry. His ferry operated from the 1946 to 1964, when Lake Powell was filled.

The ferry was small and operated using the engine of a small car. The small-scale nature of the ferry meant that it was slow and could only support one large truck or maybe two small vehicles at a time. Large commercial vehicles were not able to cross, forcing companies to lobby government officials into building a large bridge. That was the least of Arthur Chaffin’s worries. Located at the northern end of Glen Canyon, the construction of Glen Canyon Dam and filling of Lake Powell left his residence underwater and the ferry unusable. He successfully sued the federal government for his impending losses, won $8,000, and left the area.

Today the site is under water, and the ferry is no longer used. A highway and bridge cross nearby with a marker commemorating Hite ferry. The construction of a large highway and bridge made the region much more accessible, but came at the cost of Hite’s ferry.

Images

Hite Bridge, 1960s
Hite Bridge, 1960s This bridge, constructed in the 1960s, now spans the Colorado River north of Hite. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library Josef Muench Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/11367.
Hite Ferry, 1952
Hite Ferry, 1952 Hite Ferry in 1952. The ferry is little more than a wooden bridge attached to boat-like machine. The Ferry used the engine of a car (on the left) to pull the ferry across. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library Tad Nichols Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/19847
Rising Water
Rising Water As Lake Powell rose up, the crossing took longer. Arthur Chaffin built up the ferry crossing in order to make better access. Chaffin is standing in the foreground on the rock shore. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library Georgie Clark Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/6856
Unloading Equipment
Unloading Equipment A group unloads their canoes form the ferry in 1952 to begin their journey down the Colorado River. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library Tad Nichols Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/17729

Location

GPS: 37°52'54.7"N 110°24'29.9"W

Metadata

Alex Anthony, Northern Arizona University, “Hite Ferry at Dandy Crossing,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 15, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/68.