Loudoun Stories

UPDATED: Historic White’s Ferry near Leesburg ceases operations

A court reportedly decided the ferry didn’t have rights to its Loudoun landing site — after 234 years.

(Updated 8:30 p.m. 12-28-20 with statement from Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall.)
(Updated 5:30 p.m. 12-28-20 with second statement from the Rockland property owners.)
(Updated 3:15 p.m. 12-28-20 with official statement from Loudoun County.)
(Updated 2:15 p.m. 12-28-20 with statement from the owners of the Rockland property.)
(Updated 12:30 p.m. 12-28-20 with link to judge’s ruling.)

As if 2020 couldn’t get any worse, today the historic White’s Ferry that has shuttled travelers across the Potomac River between Loudoun County and Maryland for more than 230 years — since roughly 1786 — has ceased all operations, effective immediately. That’s according to an announcement today from the ferry operators.

“White’s Ferry regrets to inform the public that it will cease its Potomac River ferry operation between White’s Ferry Road in Montgomery County, Maryland and White’s Ferry Road in Loudoun County, Virginia effective immediately. The Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Virginia has ruled, in the case of Rockland Farm, LLC, et al. v. White’s Ferry, Inc., that no public landing exists on the Virginia shoreline at White’s Ferry Road and the ferry is prohibited from landing at that location in Virginia. As of the date of this press release Loudoun County, Virginia has declined to establish a public landing at that location.”

Read the judge’s ruling in the White’s Ferry case here. The gist of the case appears to be that a wall that was torn down and rebuilt in a different position around 2004 violated the terms of the agreement between the landowner and the ferry. The landowner claims the agreement was then invalidated and that they are owed compensation or rent for the time the ferry has been operating since. The judge appears to have agreed, in part, and has set the amount owed at a little over $100,000.

The historic White’s Ferry carrying a car across the Potomac River, circa 1921. (Image: C&O Canal Trust)

Monday afternoon, the owners of the Rockland property posted a statement on social media saying they have repeatedly tried to engage with the ferry owners and offered solutions, to no avail.

Image: Historic Rockland Facebook page

The owners of the Rockland property followed up with a second statement late Monday afternoon.

Image: Historic Rockland Facebook page

Also, Monday afternoon, Loudoun County issued an official statement about the White’s Ferry situation, saying that White’s Ferry itself made the choice to close today and stressing that they are concerned about the transportation implications of the closure. You can see the Loudoun County statement here.

This was followed by Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall issuing a statement Monday evening.

White’s Ferry was the last working ferry on the Potomac River, shuttling up to 24 cars at a time back and forth from its local landing spot just north of Leesburg. Local history buffs are surely hoping area leaders can figure out a solution and the ferry can be saved.

(Image at top: Visit Loudoun)

26 Comments
  1. John H 11 months ago
    Reply

    More reason to build the bridge!

    Very nice photo, thanks for digging that up.

    • Wendy 11 months ago
      Reply

      Great now even more traffic on 15. When is the construction starting to widen 15.

      • Xymom 11 months ago
        Reply

        Rockland is part of the battle to not widen the road. They want money for use of their land. Both sides are being stupid here.

        • Josh 11 months ago
          Reply

          They should get money for use of their land! That is obvious…

  2. Bobby Brooner 11 months ago
    Reply

    There’s never been a better time to build a bridge between Northern Virginia and Montgomery County.

    • Eric 8 months ago
      Reply

      Montgomery County MD is not interested in any traffic overflow from VA. That area of MD is anti-suburb and want no part of VA traffic.

    • Eric 8 months ago
      Reply

      Montgomery County MD is not interested in any traffic overflow from VA. That area of MD is anti-suburb and want no part of VA traffic.

  3. Patrick J. Malone 11 months ago
    Reply

    This ‘immediate shutdown’ is a dog-and-pony show put on by White’s Ferry, who make millions of dollars a year from the operation of the ferry, who balked at paying an annual fee of $200,000, so, they could have worked with Rockland Farms, LLC, to come to some kind of financial arrangement that both entities could agree to keep everything running, but chose not to do so.

    White’s Ferry’s owner chose not to deal with Rockland Farms, LLC, so, it is apparent that the idea for him was just to shut everything down, permanently, and walk away from the business, for whatever reason.

    So, it is through no fault of Rockland Farms, LLC. that White’s Ferry is no longer in operation.

    • Chuck Shotton 11 months ago
      Reply

      Um, what kind of fantasy world do you live in? Rockland Farms filed a lawsuit that is the ultimate cause of the shutdown. How is that “no fault of Rockland Farms”? No lawsuit, no shutdown. It seems like it is ENTIRELY Rockland Farms’ fault, regardless of the fallacy you’re trying to construct.

      • Derek Anderson 11 months ago
        Reply

        Seems that the lawsuit was the last resort, and they did in fact win the lawsuit thus showing they were in the right with their claims. The idea that they should have just done nothing is ridiculous.

      • Todd Mercer 11 months ago
        Reply

        The proximate cause of the shut down is White’s Ferry decision to cease operations. The lawsuit certainly contributed to their decision to do so, as did the success of that lawsuit in court. But the decision and action of ceasing operations rests entirely on the operators of White’s Ferry.

      • Josh 11 months ago
        Reply

        No, read the article again. White’s Ferry has been in violation of their agreement for years! They don’t own the land on the Virginia side, so what would give them the right to continue to use it without the land owner’s permission?

  4. Heather James 11 months ago
    Reply

    Time for a Go Fund me to retire that alleged debt and get the landowner off their back!
    I don’t use the \Ferry, but my Dad did years ago, and it’s a shame to let Greed break down such a historic facility.

    • Todd Mercer 11 months ago
      Reply

      Would that be the greed of White’s Ferry to not apprporiately compensate the owners of the land on which they have their landing in Virginia; and to violate a 50 year old agreement which brought about the lawsuit 11 years ago?

    • Josh 11 months ago
      Reply

      Did you read the article?? White’s Ferry is getting greedy! They have no right to use the land and won’t discuss a deal or even respond to the owners of that land. Ridiculous! I’d like to hear their side of the story.

  5. Micheal 11 months ago
    Reply

    Great reporting Chris. Thanks for doing a deep dive on this and adding facts to the story.

    • Stacey H 11 months ago
      Reply

      Yes, great reporting again. Thanks Chris.

  6. Joe 11 months ago
    Reply

    How about some enterprising person reopen the former Edward’s Ferry crossing, just down River Road?

  7. Anita McDonough 11 months ago
    Reply

    Love White’s Ferry! It’s a classic in Loudoun! Please restore it for the future generations! I’ll be glad to contribute to a Go Fund Me account even though I live in Florida now!!!

  8. Todd Mercer 11 months ago
    Reply

    What kind of fantasy world are YOU in? Rockland Farms LLC apparently tried numerous times to negotiate a fair deal with White’s Ferry, all to no avail. White’s Ferry apparently breached the terms of a 50 year old agreement, and the Virginia Courts agreed that they no longer had the right to use the landing because of it. Even so, Rockland Farms LLC continued to try to reach an equitable deal, even after the courts found in their favor.

    If you are ok with letting others use your property without just compensation as you seem to imply; please let me know your address so I can come and set up my camper on your property and live there rent free.

  9. G. Murphy Donovan 11 months ago
    Reply

    When two a-holes meet in the public square, they usually leave a hot steaming pile. Perfect end to 2020.

  10. JoeJ 11 months ago
    Reply

    I just wish they could build a Techway bridge. It’s lame that we had to rely on a ferry to get across the river. I usually take Georgetown Pike but it would make sense to extend route 28 over the Potomac but Montgomery county wants to protect their farms.

  11. Josh 11 months ago
    Reply

    Sounds like the ferry owners are being incredibly selfish and stubborn. What a shame! Thank you Rockland Farm for trying to make it work.

  12. Timeforanewbridge 11 months ago
    Reply

    Sounds like Rockland needs Whites Ferry more than Whites Ferry needs Rockland
    Whites can just shut it down and walk.
    I think Rockland overplayed its hand here
    Just because the article says Rockland negotiated in good faith does not necessarily mean that is the case.

    It is what it is; build a new bridge, widen 15 etc.

    the Rt 15 corridor can’t stay in the 1950’s for ever

  13. Mike 11 months ago
    Reply

    …why can’t Rockland open a ferry?…

    • Kara 11 months ago
      Reply

      Was thinking this same thing…If I was Rockland I’d be doing cost analysis on doing just that. But maybe they have and that’s how they came up with the $200K/yr figure someone else mentioned above that they were requesting from WF to continue operations?

      I feel bad for the shop on the other side of the river..looks like they probably make their living on commuters as well.

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