Two communities once linked by a thriving commercial trade are once again reunited now that ferry service between Rabbit Hash, Ky., and Rising Sun, Ind., has been restored. Rising Star Casino decided to build a new ferry in order to connect the two towns, and increase access to the Indiana gambling boat.
"These two towns - Rabbit Hash and Rising Sun, which are 2,000 feet apart - it takes you an hour to drive from one to the other," says Daniel Lee, president of Full House Resorts, which operates Rising Star. "We're here with a casino that is geographically challenged. There's only 5,000 people in Ohio County and there's 120,000 people in Boone County, so we think this benefits us, but we also think it benefits the community as a whole."
Lee is hoping the ferry is a success, and if the few hours the ferry operated during a "soft opening" this past weekend are any indication, it's so far, so good.
"We had 175 cars on Saturday and 239 cars and 168 motorcycles on Sunday with very little advanced notice," he says.
Before the previous ferry, the Mildred, sank in 1945, residents used to frequently travel between the two towns for shopping, work, to attend church, and visit loved ones and the like.
Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore calls the re-established ferry an effective and nostalgic way to reconnect the two states. Following an opening ceremony and inaugural passage from Kentucky to Indiana, he acknowledged detractors' fears about noise and traffic, but points out the tug's engine is surprisingly quiet.
"A barge went by during the [opening] speeches and it was actually nosier out in the middle of the river than [the tug boat] right here before us," he says.
As for creating traffic problems or congestion, especially on the rural roads on the Kentucky side of the river, he says the ferry can only handle so many vehicles at a time.
"It's capped at 10 vehicles per trip, so 10 vehicles three times an hour ... 30 vehicles max in an hour isn't really going to create congestion or wear out the roads."
He thinks it will make access to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport more convenient, as well as increase tourists at attractions like the Rabbit House General Store and the historic Dinsmore Homestead.
Bob and Mary Webster of Burlington, Ky., stood on the Indiana ferry ramp watching as the MS Lucky Lady arrived and unloaded its first official passengers. Bob Webster says it would have been nice to have been able to take the ferry across for Wednesday's ceremony. Instead they drove the hour, taking I-275.
"Once in a while it will be nice to take the ferry," Mary Webster says, adding with a laugh, "We'll probably just keep going the way we're used to ... old habits don't die."
How To Ride The Ferry
The casino spent $1.7 million to re-establish the ferry. The Rabbit Hash dock is near the Rabbit Hash General Store just off Route 18. The Rising Sun dock is adjacent to Rising Star Casino near the golf course club house.
The ferry runs every 15 minutes, seven days per week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday - Thursday, and 8 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
- Rising Sun to Rabbit Hash - 8 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. (Sun - Thurs) and 8 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. (Fri - Sat).
- Rabbit Hash to Rising Sun - 8:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sun - Thurs) and 8:15 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Fri -Sat).
The cost per car is $5 one-way or $8 for round-trip. There are different rates for motorcycles, bicycles and larger vehicles.
Click the photo at the top of the page to see more pictures from the MS Lucky Lady's maiden voyage.