ferryman.ca
Unless you live in the area this is an out of the way ferry that needs some effort to fit in to your itinerary. We had spent the night at St. Peter's where a lock and a short canal connect the southern end of Bras d'Or Lake to the ocean. We were headed to Ingonish to spend a few days in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and as usual were looking for the interesting route. So instead of the fastest way that goes west of Bras d'Or on the Trans Canada Highway, we hugged the shore north to the village of East Bay before cutting across the tip of the East Bay arm of the lake. This continues to follow the coast west, inland at times, across the bridge at Grand Narrows, then to the ferry at Little Narrows before finally joining the Trans Canada. It added an extra hour or so to the trip but was well worth it in the way we got to experience mile upon mile of views out over Bras d'Or.
Two parts of that drive I found particularly memorable. The road crosses the tip of East Bay by running along sand bars linked just by small, low bridges. When we stopped halfway it seemed like we were in the middle of the lake, miles from anywhere.
The crossing at Grand Narrows was just as interesting if opposite in nature. Here a major railway bridge had been built in 1890, with a swing section to let through larger boats; an impressive piece of Victorian engineering, disused since 2014 and probably now beyond economic repair. But you can get close to the swing bridge (permanently open) at shore level at Kelly Point, near where the ferry used to depart. And then you can backtrack up the hill to the main road and drive across the modern road bridge (The Barra Strait Bridge) which runs parallel to the old rail bridge, just 50 away.
The Grand Narrows ferry closed when the road bridge opened in 1993. But the Little Narrows ferry remains, 25 further along the road. The ferry itself crosses a very short, calm stretch of water, in our case starting at the village of Little Narrows and finishing on a nice green patch of land next to the Little Narrows Presbyterian Church. About a crossing of just 150, taking a nominal 5 minutes, but in fact even quicker.
The church is white clapboard, and although simple in form looks quite striking as is gently commands the view over the ferry crossing. It now has two towers at the end, but in a photo from the 1930s in the Nova Scotia Archives (see link below) it is more a simple square box without tower or porch. From an outsider’s perspective is seems strange that the church is the other side of the water from the main concentration of people in Little Narrows, few as they are.
The ferry boat a classic diesel powered cable ferry capable of handling about 15 cars or equivalent, called the Caolas S'ilis, Gaelic for Julia's Strait. As of 2021 the Nova Scotia provincially run ferries are free, a move probably triggered by Covid safety considerations, but I doubt that the income from ferries such as this ever made much difference to the running costs. Maybe making the ferry free will help increase attendance at the church?

Location
Ferry info
Operating year-round, 24 hour service, on demand
150 across, taking less than 5 minutes
The boats
Cost
Free
Operator
Nova Scotia Department of Public Works
Website
When I used the ferry
September 2021

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