The story behind Kentucky’s oldest operating business

This free cable ferry is the oldest continuously operating business in Kentucky.

A photo of the Valley View Ferry.

The Valley View Ferry sits at the intersection of Fayette, Madison, and Jessamine Counties. | Photo by LEXtoday

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In 1792, Kentucky gained its statehood, making it the 15th state to join the nation. But seven years prior, several local businesses were already in full bloom — and it just so happens that the oldest recorded business in the state sits in the heart of central Kentucky.

Drive down Tates Creek Road, and you’ll come to where the creek’s mouth meets the Kentucky River — and that’s where you’ll find the Valley View Ferry. Curiosity got the best of us, so we dug around to find the real story behind the state’s oldest operating ferry.

A history plaque that reads, "The oldest continuous business of record in Ky. On land acquired by John Craig in 1780 through a military warrant, the Virginia Assembly granted a perpetual and irrevocable franchise to establish ferry in 1785. Ferry is presently named for the location in picturesque Valley View community."

This historical plaque is located on the Madison County side of the ferry dock. | Photo by LEXtoday

The history

In 1780, a land baron named John Craig purchased 200+ acres of land just along the Kentucky River via a military warrant. Five years later, the Virginia Assembly gave Craig permission to begin operating the ferry.

The ferry was often used to transport residents and goods as needed. After being privately operated for nearly two centuries, it was taken over by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, as well as Madison and Jessamine Counties, in 1991.

A sign that reads, "No Toll. Allowable Length At Captain's Discretion."

The 85 ft barge is believed to be one of the oldest operating ferries in the US. | Photo by LEXtoday

Taking a ride

Today, the paddlewheel vehicle transports cars up to 150 times each day — and it’s open to just about anyone (as long as your car is less than 22 ft in size).

Interested in taking this rite of passage? Here’s a few things you should know:

  • If you’re coming from Fayette County, you can reach the ferry by going south on Tates Creek Road ~11 miles.
  • The ferryboat can carry up to three cars
  • Operations hours are Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. + Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Each ride is ~3 minutes and transports you to Madison County (Richmond).
  • The ferry may close depending on weather, so check its Facebook for updates.
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