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 metres in length.

These ferries (Fähre) were initially called Fliegende Brücke (Flying Bridges), the operation was in the hands of a Society of Artists (Künstlergesellschaft) who 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, Johanniter bridge (Johanniterbrücke) in 1882, Dreirosen bridge (Dreirosenbrücke) in 1934 and the bridge at the Kraftwerke Birsfelden in 1954) and the motorization, the use of the ferries declined further and further. In 1976 the last boatsman (Fährimann) retired.

A foundation was established to keep four boats in operation: the Ueli, Wilde Ma, Leu and Vogel Gryff, legendary figures from the history of (Klein) Basel. This foundation would later merge into the Fähri-Verein Basel.

The four ferries still cross the Rhine between Klein- and Grootbasel, without CO2 emissions because the current of the Rhine ensures the transfer to the other side via a cable construction as simple as it is ingenious (source and further information: www.faehri.ch).