|Gee's Bend Ferry Landing at Gee's Bend, Ala.|
A month or so ago, AL.com writer Kelly Kazek wrote a story called “The quirkiest roadside attraction in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.” Kazek based this interesting list on the things she’s seen during her many road-trips across the state while writing her regular Odd Travels feature column for AL.com.
Her roadside attraction story was presented in a slideshow format online, and it was alphabetized by county. Wilcox County being next to last in the A to Z slideshow, I had a little time to guess what roadside attraction Kazek picked for Wilcox County as I made my way through the slideshow. To my surprise, she picked the Gee’s Bend Ferry as the top roadside attraction in Wilcox County, and she also discussed the ferry’s unique history.
Kazek’s column got me to thinking a lot about the ferry during the weeks that followed, and it reminded me that, while I’d been to the ferry landing on the Camden side, I’d never actually ridden the ferry all the way to Gee’s Bend and back.
Two days before Christmas, my eight-year-old son and I hopped into my truck and rode up to the ferry landing near Camden, arriving about five minutes before its scheduled 11:15 a.m. departure time.
As best that I can remember, the only other ferry that I’d ever ridden before was the Mobile Bay Ferry that runs back and forth between Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, and that was only once, not nearly enough times to dull the slightly unnerving feeling you get when you drive a heavy, four-wheeled vehicle onto a boat like the Gee’s Bend Ferry. I tried to play it cool though for the sake of my young son, who seemed to get a kick out of the whole thing.
Once we got stopped, set the parking brake and switched off the engine, we got out of the truck and walked around on the deck of the ferry. A sign on the superstructure told us that the ferry master that day was a man named Jimmy, and his crewmen included Recaido, Vondell and Gary. It was a nice, bright, sunny day, and I was very impressed by the military cleanliness of the vessel. I got the impression that the ferry workers took great pride in their vessel, and that it was not only well-maintained but also very safe.
We made the trip all the way over to the Gees Bend side, drove off the ferry and then rode up to ferry terminal building down the road. On our way back to the ferry landing, we spotted a pair of young boys riding horses, which impressed my son more than a little. With a few minutes to spare, we got back in line for the ferry and caught the 12 p.m. return trip back to the Camden side of the river.
My son and I had more than a few questions about the ferry, and one of the young crewman was good enough to chat with us for a few minutes. He told me that he’d been working on the ferry for a little over three years and enjoyed the work. I remarked about the cold winter mornings on the river, and he said that it did get chilly at times, but he noted, with a knowing grin, that the winter mornings weren’t quite as bad as the hot weather during the summer.
Later in the day, after we’d left the ferry far behind, I kicked myself for not asking the crewman if he’d ever seen the mysterious “Light in the Water” that is sometimes seen near the Camden ferry landing. This eerie underwater light has been reported by many over the years, and some say it gets as large as 60 feet in diameter. Late county commissioner Mark Curl and former ferry captain Willie Quill Pettway both claimed to have seen this weird light, and Pettway believed that it had something to do with a military plane that crashed years ago.
In any event, if you’ve never ridden the Gee’s Bend Ferry, I highly recommend that you take the time to do so. Not only is it a unique roadside attraction as Kazek pointed out, but it’s also somewhat of a modern marvel in that it saves the residents on the Gee’s Bend side of the river no telling how much in time and gas each year. Plus, you never know, if you catch the ferry late in the day or early in the morning, you might see the mysterious “Light in the Water.”
(Got a question or comment? Please e-mail Lee Peacock at firstname.lastname@example.org.)