Skip Top Navigation

Newest and smallest ferry vessel named Sanpoil

Get Our Mobile App

  • Our Android and iPhone apps include statewide traffic cameras, travel alerts, mountain pass reports, ferry schedules and alerts, northbound Canadian border wait times and more.

Date:  Monday, June 25, 2012

Contact: Al Gilson, Communications Manager
WSDOT Eastern Region
2714 N. Mayfair
Spokane, WA  99207

There’s another new Washington state ferry under construction, but it’s not one of the big ones that plies the salty waters of Puget Sound. This ferry is a lot smaller and fills a very important role – serving the Keller route across the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

Until a few days ago, this new vessel was without a name. On Tuesday, June 19, the Washington State Transportation Commission officially named the new ferry Sanpoil.

Sanpoil is the Anglicized form of the name given to the Columbia River, as well as to the ancestral and current native residents of this area. The name was honors the people who have lived on this land and crossed this river for thousands of years.

Although the commission makes the final decision on names for state operated vessels, the Washington State Department of Transportation wanted the public to submit ideas. Deckhands passed out informational cards to regular Keller Ferry riders announcing the naming process and guidelines and giving them the opportunity to submit suggestions. WSDOT also hosted an interactive website, sent an email newsletter and worked with eastside media to promote the naming contest.

As a result, WSDOT and the commission received more than 500 suggestions. About 200 met the parameters of the Commission Vessel Naming Guidelines. A committee of Tribal, community and WSDOT representatives reviewed the 200 names and, at a meeting in late May, reached consensus on the name to submit to the commission.

Historically, the Keller Ferry crossing site was one of the most desirable in the whole territory for salmon fishing, and each year local tribes built a huge trap across the Sanpoil River. Historians estimate as many as 400 people gathered in this area at the height of the salmon season.

Several components of the new vessel are under construction at the Foss Maritime shipyard in Rainier, Oregon. Later this fall, the parts will be trucked to Grand Coulee and assembled. The boat is expected to be launched in July 2013 and will replace the current vessel, the 64-year-old Martha S.

More information is available on the web site.

< Go Back