LEXINGTON, Ky- Back and forth, back and forth.  Port Captain Clayton Embly will cross the Kentucky River as many as 150 times in a single day as he operates the Valley View Ferry.  The 85-foot diesal engine and paddlewheel-propelled barge isn't the largest vessel Embly has been in charge of, but it certainly stakes a claim in the history books. The Valley View Ferry is the longest continuously operating ferry in the entire United States.  “It started back in 1785 as part of a perpetual and irrevocable grant,”  Embly recites.  “We get people from all over the world and they come here and they are shocked something like this even still exists. It’s quite the step back in time," Embly adds.

The ferry can be found about 15 miles south of Lexington where the Kentucky River cuts Tates Creek Road in two.  For drivers, the shortcut across the river saves them about 30 miles round trip if they are traveling to Lexington or thereabouts.  The conveyance is sponsored by three bordering counties, Madison on the east side of the river, and Fayette and Jessamine on the west bank.  “The three counties went together and bought this boat.  So they bought it and started operating it and charged two dollars a car. So the state came along and said we’ll give you some money if you make it free,” passenger Dennis Mullinix tells Spectrum News 1.  

Valley View is well used.  At most, the ferry can safely hold three passenger cars at a time.  A larger truck might be the only rider, depending on its size.  Assuringly, Embly says, “The most important thing we have here is keeping the trim and stability."  Trips across don't take long, an average of 3-4 minutes.

At the forefront of safety is the deck crew which is staffed by inmates from two county jails.  “You know they are giving them the responsibility. It’s a great way to reintegrate once they’ve moved on from the detention center," Embly says.  Crewmate Jason Mayes will finish his sentence in Madison County in just a few months.  He says the work release program with Valley View Ferry has been a very positive experience. Mayes says, "I love it. I love it man. I mean people are awesome down here. They are really nice, they bring us food, clothes if you need them. Couldn’t ask for anything better." In May the ferry carried nearly 17,000 passengers without incident.