By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Knights ferry was almost Dentville
Placeholder Image

KNIGHTS FERRY – When the mercury climbs and the cold river beckons, most find their way here.

Huddled together in a parking lot, snapping towels and carrying squirt guns, rafters wait to be, well...


Once on the Stanislaus River, the beauty and beast of the Sierra Nevada foothills is unleashed.

There are stretches of calm followed by mild rapids, and if you’re not careful you could be snared by a low-hanging limb.

And so the legacy of Dr. William Knight thrives more than 160 years after his death.

The doctor was the catalyst for Knights Ferry’s rich history. He returned to the crossing at modern-day Knights Ferry shortly after gold was discovered in California in 1948, building and operating a ferry boat along the Stanislaus River.

The ferry proved to be an instant hit and eventually Knight and Captain Vantine developed the land around the crossing. They built a hotel and a trading post.

Mere months into , Knight was slain.

When he died – by either gunshot or knife, depending on storyteller – his property and eventually his project (the ferry) fell into the possession of John Dent.

It wasn’t enough to live on Knight’s land and run his boat, though. Dent wanted more.

He wanted naming rights.

Imagine: If it weren’t for the loyalty of the residents, Knights Ferry might have been known as “Dentville.”

Instead, they continued to call the town “Knights Ferry.” And though the ferry no longer exists and much of the town has become a living, breathing artifact, Knight’s legacy remains.

Each summer, thousands descend upon this riverside community, each looking for a safe float.



209 staff reporter