M.J. Lee II Ferry Information

About the M.J. Lee II

The M/V MJ Lee II is a steel-hulled, double-ended, passenger/car ferry. The principal characteristics of the vessel are as follows:

  • Length overall: 84 feet (including ramps)
  • Length at waterline: 53 feet, 2 inches
  • Beam overall: 36 feet
  • Depth of hull (molded): 4 feet, 9 inches
  • Draft: 3.11 feet (design waterline, shell bottom, approx.)
  • Displacement: 90.5 long tons (design waterline)
  • Gross tonnage: 54 GRT
  • Propulsion: Two 75 HP electric gear set Harbormaster Z-drives
  • Service speed: 6.4 mph
  • Passenger capacity: 43 (including crew)
  • Vehicle capacity: 6 autos or 25 tons
  • Transportation Wt: 160,000 lbs (80 short tons)
  • The first M.J. Lee carried passengers and vehicles for 43 years, from 1953 to 1996.
  • The M.J. Lee II went into service in 1997.


Historical Notes

  • July 1914
    Ferry purchased in Newberg by Canby Mayor W.H. Bair and by Harry B. Evans, representing the Canby Business Men's Club. It is propelled by a splashboard driven by the river current and held on course by a cable. The first ferryman is Clem Dollar who receives $10 a month from the City of Canby.
  • May 1916
    Canby City Council authorizes $250 for a new, gas-driven ferry.
  • 1917
    Second ferry is built by Frank E. Dodge, a Canby builder. The final cost is under budget at $238. The ferry was 44 feet long and 12 feet wide.
  • 1917 - 1918
    Edward Kilgallen, who lost an arm in childhood, succeeds Dollar as ferryman and the wages are reduced to $7.50 per month. He is found dead in the boathouse at the ferry slip in 1932. He had figured his trips across the river at 1,261, carrying 1,942 passengers.
  • 1919 - 1920
    W.B. Nolen is also paid $7.50 per month as ferryman.
  • 1921
    The third Canby Ferry goes into service, with the six-horsepower engine from the second ferry and a new propeller. It is 45 feet long and 15 feet wide.
  • 1933
    Theodore Neep serves as ferryman until 1942. He and his family live in a house on the south landing furnished by the County.
  • January 1946
    Heavy rains and a flooded river sweep the ferry from its moorings and pieces go over the Willamette Falls.
  • 1946 - 1953
    Inactive. Community members encourage the county to reinstate the ferry.
  • June 1952
    Canby Chamber and Lions Club presents the Clackamas County Court with 8,000 signatures seeking restoration of ferry service.
  • September 1952
    County Commissioners approve construction of a steel-hulled ferryboat by L.S. Baier of Milwaukie.
  • November 1952
    The fourth Canby Ferry, the M.J. Lee, launches at Baier's plant and is christened by Ora Lee Cattley, daughter of Canby's first mayor, Heman A. Lee, and granddaughter of Philander and Anna Green Lee who settled in the Canby area in 1847. The ferry is named for Millard Jerome Lee, first child born (1872) in the 1870-platted town of Canby.
  • July 3, 1953
    Ferry service restored with William H. Criteser and Bill Bruck as ferrymen. Chester Weaver named third operator.
  • 1956 - 1986
    Miller (Ace) Mays serves as ferry operator.
  • 1959 - 1979
    Victor Hodel serves as ferry operator.
  • 1960 - 1978
    Richard W. Hill serves as ferry operator.
  • 1961
    The ferry is featured on the cover of Sunset magazine.
  • 1986
    Free service ends and one-way toll of $1 is established.
  • 1989
    Ferry renovated and repainted. Coast Guard declares that vessel will not be recertified.
  • December 1995
    Ferry fails Coast Guard safety inspection and County contracts with Art Anderson Associates to replace it.
  • February 1996
    Ferry closed due to severe flooding on Willamette and remains closed during rebuilding of ferry docks.
  • June 20, 1997
    Service is restored with new six-vehicle ferry built at Diversified Marine in Portland. The ferry crew includes Joe Dietrich, John Lettenmaier, Carl Ellison, Jack Siefert, Mike Pyszka and Bret Proffitt.
  • July 4, 1997
    Clackamas County Commissioners and the Canby community celebrate the reopening. The M.J. Lee II is christened by Doris Cattley Martin, descendent of M.J. Lee. Fares increased to help cover operating costs.
  • January-July 2013
    Fares increased to help cover operating costs. Ferry taken through Willamette Falls Locks to be refitted with a new propulsion system in Portland and returned. The previously-closed Locks are re-opened under special arrangement to allow the ferry to pass through in January and July.
  • September 17, 2014
    State, regional and local officials, and the community, celebrate the Canby Ferry's 100th anniversary with speeches, ferry rides, fun facts, music and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque. Descendants of M.J. Lee attend the ceremony.

(from information provided by Myra Weston, Canby historian)