Ferries

Kootenay Lake Ferry

The history of the Kootenay Lake area is tied to the network of ferries used to crisscross the lake. In many areas, ferries are still used to this day as the only (and, frankly, fun) way to cross the lake. The ferries in our region are free, including the famous Kootenay Lake Ferry, which is the longest free ferry in the world. A new electric ferry will replace the smaller M.V. Balfour in 2024 which is being constructed at the east end of the waterfront in Nelson. Take a Google Tour or read Michael A. Cone's 'Connecting The Kootenays' to learn about over a hundred years of ferry service. 

Daily Ferry Schedule

All times are Pacific Time (PST - Nelson time). Cars and trucks are loaded on a first-come first-served basis. Check the Government Ferry Schedule for possible delays. Times in bold indicate peak ferry travel during the summer. The scheduled summer service with M.V. Balfour operates from late June through Labour Day weekend in September. M.V. Balfour also replaces Osprey 2000 during maintenance. Food services are available on the Osprey 2000 only. Check DriveBC for current conditions and events

*PLEASE NOTE: Changes will be noted on the company that operates the ferry: Western Pacific Marine website. The ferry operates on Nelson time (PST). 

Vessel Name

Departure from
Balfour Terminal

Departure from
Kootenay Bay Terminal

 

Summer

Winter 

Summer

Winter 

Osprey 2000

6:30 am

6:30 am

7:10 am

7:10 am

Osprey 2000

8:10 am

8:10 am

9:00 am

9:00 am

Osprey 2000

9:50 am

9:50 am

10:40 am

10:40 am

M.V. Balfour

10:40 am

 

11:30 am

 

Osprey 2000

11:30 am

11:30 am

12:20 pm

12:20 pm

M.V. Balfour

12:20 pm

 

1:10 pm

 

Osprey 2000

1:10 pm

1:10 pm

2:00 pm

2:00 pm

M.V. Balfour

2:00 pm

 

2:50 pm

 

Osprey 2000

2:50 pm

2:50 pm

3:40 pm

3:40 pm

M.V. Balfour

3:40 pm

 

4:30 pm

 

Osprey 2000

4:30 pm

4:30 pm

5:20 pm

5:20 pm

M.V. Balfour

5:20 pm

 

6:10 pm

 

Osprey 2000

6:10 pm

6:10 pm

7:00 pm

7:00 pm

Osprey 2000

7:50 pm

7:50 pm

8:40 pm

8:40 pm

Osprey 2000

9:40 pm

9:40 pm

10:20 pm

10:20 pm

To see ferry traffic (not fairy traffic, although those have been sighted too) view the ferry landings on the BC Highway Webcams:

Capacity

MV Osprey: 80 passenger cars, 250 passengers.
MV Balfour: 28 passenger cars, 150 passengers. (Summer only).

There is a vehicle height restriction of 15′ 2″.

Do I need to make a reservation?

No, a reservation is not required. Vehicles are loaded on a first-come first-served basis. We recommend arriving early on busy holiday weekends and during the peak summer season.

Other Ferries on/Around Kootenay Lake

The highway system in British Columbia includes a series of ferries. Webcams, current conditions, and event can be found through DriveBC for the Harrop, Balfour and Kootenay Bay landings.

  • Balfour Bay / Crawford Bay Ferry takes 35 minutes to cross and there are winter and summer crossing schedules.
  • Harrop / Procter Ferry crosses a very narrow stretch of Kootenay Lake where you can drive through lush farmland to visit these quaint communities. Crossing time is 5 minutes. The Harrop/Procter ferry crosses continually around the clock. 
  • Glade Cable Ferry, south of Nelson, takes travellers across a narrow stretch of the lake and into lush farmland. Crossing time is 3 minutes.
  • Needles / Fauquier Ferry lies south of Nakusp and crosses the Lower Arrow Lake. It takes approximately 10 minutes to cross and leaves approximately every hour.
  • Galena Bay Ferry / Upper Arrow Lake Ferry, takes 20 minutes to cross from Galena Bay to Shelter Bay.

History of the Ferries on Kootenay Lake

The Kootenay Lake area is tied to the network of ferries used to crisscross the lake. In many areas, ferries are still used to this day as the only (and, frankly, fun) way to cross the lake.

Prior to the opening of "BOB" (the Big Orange Bridge) in 1957 that connects Nelson to the north shore of Kootenay Lake, sternwheelers were the only option. Elsewhere, including Balfour Bay, Harrop/Procter, and further north at Galena Bay/Shelter Bay and Fauquier/Needles, ferries are still essential for transportation in the region.

Sternwheelers used to rule the lake and river system from here to Portland, Oregon. The oldest intact sternwheeler in the world is sitting in Kaslo. The lovingly restored SS Moyie National Historic Site is a regal reminder of how travel along Kootenay Lake used to be.

Though sternwheelers no longer rule the lake, the ferry system still harkens back to that time. Take a ride on at least one of our ferries during your stay with us and learn a bit about our heritage at Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery. The history of Kootenay Lake and the Columbia River is a long one — full of twists and turns and fascinating stories.

Take some time to learn more about our long and fascinating history and make sure to visit the SS Moyie and cross the lake via a ferry as part of your stay with us. The Kootenay Lake Ferry is the longest free ferry in the world, and very easily one of the most gorgeous routes. Trip Advisor lists this ferry ride as one of the most popular things to do in our area (and not for a lack of things to do)! 

The Region

Newsletter Subscribe
Travel Book

TRAVEL BOOK

Read our visitors guide online or order a copy of the official visitor's guide and map for our region.

VIEW THE BOOK