Local History

Die Münster Fähre Leu. Bild/photo: TES

The Ferries of Basel

The four small wooden ferries between the Rhine bridges of Basel have a history of more than 150 years.

Until 1879, the Mittlere Brücke (until 1905 a thirteenth-century construction) was the only bridge. That was the reason to maintain the connection between Kleinbasel and Grossbasel with wooden ships of about 9 meters in length.

These ferries (Fähre) were initially called Fliegende Brücke (Flying Bridges), the operation was in the hands of a Society of Artists (Künstlergesellschaft). The Society spent the profits on the construction of an Art Hall on the Steinenberg in the city centre.

Due to the arrival of other bridges (including the Wettstein bridge (Wettsteinbrücke) in 1879, the Johanniter bridge (Johanniterbrücke) in 1882, the Dreirosen bridge (Dreirosenbrücke) in 1934 and the bridge at the Kraftwerke Birsfelden in 1954) and the motorization, the use of the ferries declined.

The last boatsman (Fährimann) retired in 1976.

A foundation was established to keep four boats in operation: the Ueli, Wilde Maa, Leu and Vogel Gryff, legendary figures from the history of Kleinbasel. This foundation merged into the Fähri-Verein Basel.

The four ferries still cross the Rhine between Klein- and Grossbasel, without CO2 emissions. The current of the Rhine ensures the transfer to the other side by a cable construction.

(source and further information: www.faehri.ch).