Only a Memory: Toad Suck Ferry

Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in the Log Cabin Democrat on the occasion of the Toad Suck Ferry being taken to Bull Shoals Lake in 1970.




The Toad Suck Ferry is no more — at least on the Arkansas River, west of Conway. The barge was stripped of its paddlewheels, its pilot’s cabin, and its diesel engine and was packed up last week and sent to Bull Shoals Lake.

Before it will be placed in operation alongside an existing ferry on the Highway 125 crossing at the Missouri-Arkansas line, the barge will be repainted and its power plant reconditioned.

Henry Gray, assistant director of the Arkansas Highway Department, said a considerable amount of repair and renovation is planned before the ferry again becomes operative.

Several weeks ago, the highway department, in rejecting a request from the Conway Chamber of Commerce to retain the ferry at the site as a tourist attraction, said the barge was too valuable to be taken out of service and could be better utilized elsewhere.

The ferry, which transported people, livestock and vehicles between Perry and Faulkner counties, was doomed upon completion of the $1.4 million Highway 60 bridge. The new span, opened September 27 [1980], is unofficially designated as Toad Suck Bridge. It was constructed atop Lock and Dam No. 8.

The ferry, in its last month of operation, averaged 222 vehicles daily.

Toad Suck Ferry, which has a history dating to the last century, began operating as a toll-free ferry in 1957. The mandate to the highway department was in the form of legislation initiated by Senator Guy H. Jones of Conway and former Perry County Representative Paul Van Dalsem.

John Price of Russellville, district highway engineer, said the Perry County portion of Highway 60 which temporarily connects with the new bridge will be maintained in passable condition throughout the winter months but traffic won’t be able to a new stretch, under construction, until spring.

Seasonal limitations on the placement of asphalt will prevent the completion of the new section until warmer weather, Price said. This is in keeping with a long-standing highway department policy.

The new section of road on the Perry County side, which is several hundred yards long, will eliminate two sharp turns in the existing stretch.

Price said work through the winter months on two road projects south of Conway will consist mainly of culvert and structure work. Little grading, if any, will be done by contractors on two sections of Highway 286. One section is from Highway 65 at the Conway Industrial Park, along Hartje Lane to Donaghey Avenue and south to the state Civil Defense headquarters building. The other job is from Donaghey Avenue and Hartje Lane west to Highway 60 at Toad Suck Bridge.

The new route will link Highway 60 and the spur route of Highway 286 (to the Civil Defense headquarters) to Interstate 40 on the southeast.