Boats & Barges

New Rising Sun Ferry To Begin Operation This Summer

A new ferry service crossing the Ohio River between Rising Sun, Ind., and Rabbit Hash, Ky., could begin service in late July.

The 10-car ferry barge and the boat to push it have been built, but the wet spring has delayed work on the access roads and landing.

“The hardest part’s actually been the (access) roads and the ramps in the river because it involves permits and approvals in two states,” said Dan Lee, CEO of Full House Resorts, the company that owns the Rising Star casino boat on the Ohio River at Rising Sun.

The wet spring delayed road and ramp construction so much that the casino will miss its original goal of beginning ferry service July 4, Lee said.

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But there is a celebration coming sooner than that. The barge was built in Jacksonville, Fla., and the boat has been tied up in Cincinnati. The barge is on its way up the Ohio after a stop in Paducah to repair some cosmetic damage the resulted when it scraped a lock wall, Lee said. Soon it will meet up with the boat in Louisville. The remaining miles of their trip up the Ohio will be timed so they can arrive on a Saturday with a big reception, he said.

The Rising Star, at Mile 506, was the first casino in southern Indiana, and its market area included Cincinnati, Louisville and Indianapolis, but it has been hit hard in recent years by competition from newer casinos near bridges and closer to those cities.

One at Lawrenceburg, Ind., is near the Interstate 275 bridge over the Ohio at about Mile 492, and another is close to the bridge over the Markland Locks and Dam at Mile 532.

Rising Sun is close to the heavily populated area of Northern Kentucky across the Ohio from Cincinnati. Lee said people in Rising Sun sometimes can look across the river and see the lights of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport illuminating low clouds. But people from Northern Kentucky can’t get to Rising Sun without driving past another casino. That has cut into the Rising Star’s profits, he said.

Lee said he got the idea for a ferry after watching the Anderson ferry at Cincinnati.

“I was watching them and actually timed them,” he said.

The Rising Star ferry should make four trips across the river each hour, Lee said. Casino customers, employees, commuters or anyone can reserve a spot on the ferry via a website, and one lane at each landing will be reserved for people with reservations, he said.

Lee said the last ferry at Rising Sun discontinued service in 1948. It was destroyed by river ice that year, and its owners decided against buying a new one. That ferry had served farmers in Northern Kentucky who took their crops to Rising Sun, where boats would pick them up. By 1948, more farmers were using trucks and taking their crops elsewhere, so the demand for ferry service had already fallen off, he said.

Loss of the ferry severed the link between two communities that had been joined closely, Lee said. Now Rising Sun and Rabbit Hash are only 2,000 feet apart but separated by an hour of driving time. The ferry should change that, he said.