Ferry History




    In 1844 Chester Mattson was granted a charter to build a state road connecting Madison and
Baraboo.  To cross the Wisconsin River he built a ferry at Merrimac.  The road became known as
 "Matts Ferry Road".  The ferry was not free then, but charged five cents for each
passenger, 25 cents for each horse and 40 cents for a team of oxen.  In 1877 W. P. Flanders
purchased the ferry business for $700.  In 1872 the railroad came to town and nearly ruined
the ferry business.  In 1877 it was abandoned.  The ferry landing site was near the
present day Merrimac Village Park.
      In 1883 John Brownrigg operated a ferry near the present site.  It was hand powered using
pike poles.  In 1912 Arthur Brownrigg took over the operation of the ferry from his father .
He installed a hand operated windlass with an overhead cable to propell the ferry.
In 1915 Timothy Wells bought the business and attached a gasoline engine and
underwater cable to power the ferry.  The ferry could carry two vehicles and a few passengers . 
It cost 35 cents to cross with a vehicle and five cents afoot.  This ferry operated until 
the dam at Praire du Sac was built creating Lake Wisconsin.    
      In 1924 Columbia and Sauk Counties took over operation of a ferry - the Colsac I.  
It was a small wooden catamaran that could carry eight cars.  Fares were 5 cents
for pedestrians, 35 cents for cars, 75 cents for trucks and one dollar for tractors.  In 1933
the State of Wisconsin assumed responsibility for the operation of the ferry and it
became toll free.  It operated until 1963 when it was replaced by the current ferry.
      The Colsac II ferry was built by the Marinette Marine Company and reassembled at
its present site  in April of 1963.  It is a 37 x 80 foot steel craft with a capacity for 12 
vehicles.  It links Columbia and Sauk counties via highway 113 - hence its name.  It carries 
approximately 200,000 vehicles a year - over 5 million in its 32 year history.  The ColSac II 
is on the National Register of Historic Places.