During the Civil Rights Movement, black residents of Gee’s Bend began taking the ferry to the county seat at Camden to try to register to vote. Local authorities reacted by eliminating ferry service. The shutdown of the 15-minute ferry ride forced the residents of Gee’s Bend to drive more than 40 miles over narrow rural roads to get to the county courthouse in Camden, then 40 miles back. Gee’s Bend residents would be without ferry service for over forty years.
In the 1990s, Congress allocated money to pay for a ferry service and operating costs, but the project floundered when the Alabama Department of Transportation hired Hubert Bonner, a boat builder who had never built a ferry. Bonner’s ferry, completed in 2004, got stuck on a sandbar and did not pass Coast Guard inspections. Alabama then hired Hornblower Marine Services (HMS Ferries), to rebuild the ferry that Bonner completed, fixing the problems to allow the ferry to pass the Coast Guard inspections. Hornblower completed retrofitting the ferry in May, 2006. The ferry service began anew on September 18, 2006, after dredging of the route was completed.
Shown are pictures of the current Gee’s Bend Ferry. It docks on the Camden side of the Alabama River near Ellis Landing (GPS coordinates 32.042835, -87.302144). The ferry landing at Gee’s Bend is located at GPS coordinates 32.055797, -87.303678. The Google map shows the location of the landing on the Camden side of the river.
Also included is a b&w photograph of the old Gee’s Bend cable ferry (courtesy the the US Library of Congress, photographer: Marion Post Wolcott, date: 1939).
Visit GeesBendFerry.com for additional details including the operating schedule of the ferry.
The video below shows the Gee’s Bend Ferry arriving at the ferry landing on the Camden side of the river.