Things to Do

Los Ebanos Ferry: A Trip Across the Rio Grande and Back in Time

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Tony Maples Photography


A trip across the border into Mexico can be fun, interesting and exciting. But a trip across the Rio Grande via hand-operated cable ferry can take you back in time while it takes you over the border. A brief trip, the Los Ebanos Ferry ride spans 70 yards across the river and can hold three cars and a few passengers. The hand-pulled ferry, which runs between Los Ebanos, Texas and the town of Diaz Ordaz, Mexico, is the last of its kind. So-named because of a large Texas ebony tree which anchors the three-car barge on the U.S. side, the ferry has been in operation since 1950, although this current boat only since 1979. It was recognized with a state historical marker in 1975 and ferries an average of 50 vehicles per day, to and from Texas, including workers, families, and tourists such as yourself.

Los Ebanos Ferry: A Trip Across the Rio Grande and Back in Time

Photo: Facebook/Kathy Schuster

Considering the current political climate, it’s really a wonder that the ferry is still operable, however it is effectively managed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and although previous phases of operation uncertainty have come and gone, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may make future determinations about its operations as immigration issues come under the magnifying glass. A small and informal, yet professional crossing, the Los Ebanos Ferry is a dying breed. A round trip crossing fee is required for locals (nominal) and when the ferry sets out, it is truly pulled across the river by up to five strong men on a pulley system.

Los Ebanos Ferry: A Trip Across the Rio Grande and Back in Time

Photo: Flickr/John W. Schulze

Before the future is yet determined for the service, if you haven’t taken the opportunity to cross the Rio Grande by this modest ferry, it’s highly recommended that you do. For posterity’s sake and simply for a slower pace and nostalgia, but also for the chance to say you used the last hand-operated cable ferry across the Rio Grande, take your car, take a break, and take the trip across the river. As a dying breed, this form of border crossing may soon be on the chopping block with border securities tightening. An integral link for local Texans that require the ability to cross the border, townspeople would otherwise need to make a 60-mile round trip to the closest bridge crossing, which would be in Rio Grande City. Until then, the Los Ebanos Ferry is an interesting throwback to a simpler time down on the Rio Grande.