|It's the last remaining government licensed hand operated ferry anywhere on the U.S. border, and in spite of efforts to replace it by more conventional methods of transportation services -- like a bridge -- the people who live in the area and/or use the ferry to cross between Mexico and the United States overwhelmingly oppose removing the historic floating bridge that connects Texas to Mexico - the historic Ebanos Crossing.
Even before the ferry was located at the crossing, people have been coming and going across the Rio Grande river here for generations. Many generations. History tells us that the Spanish explorer Jose De Escadon and a band of Spanish settlers crossed here in 1740 in search of fertile lands where they could set up home. For years afterward, settlers used the crossing to travel to and from the salt fields near El Sal Del Rey, 40 miles to the northeast.
It was at this crossing that a large contingent of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna marched across the Rio Grande in route to the infamous Battle of the Alamo. And here, too, several armies used the crossing down through history, Mexican revolutionaries, including Pancho Villa, Mexican federal troops, U.S. troops during the Mexican War, and Confederate forces in search of supplies and provisions.
It was here, at the Ebanos Crossing, that Texas Rangers chased a band of rustlers to the river in 1846, surprising the outlaws by crossing over into Mexico to retrieve the stolen goods and round up the thieves to stand trial for their transgressions in Texas.
Here, too, did enterprising businessman from two countries transport their illegal cargo of whiskey and rum and tequila during the long Prohibition years of the 20s and 30s. More than one gun battle was said to have broken out between the good guys and the smugglers down through the years.
The unique three-car ferry and an inspection station were added to the crossing in 1950 and with few exceptions, the ferry has hauled cars and people across the river most every day since. The ferry is privately owned and received a state historical marker in 1975.
While lovers and supporters of the hand-drawn ferry have fought to prevent its removal, there are plans in the works that would replace it with a concrete bridge. U.S. border patrol agents who man the checkpoint report the crossing is relatively safe during daylight hours, but at night, after the ferry has stopped operating, a number of immigrants and a few smugglers have tried to use the crossing, occasionally ending in gunfire.
The ferry crosses the Rio Grande River from an area of ebony trees (los ebanos) located approximately 14 miles west of McAllen on U.S. 83 and 3 miles south on FM 886. It Connects the U.S. with Diaz Ordaz, Mexico which is a short drive down a dirt road from the river. It was, at one time, known as "Smugglers Crossing." The ferry's anchor cable has been tied to a tree near the river for 50 years; that ebony tree is estimated to be 250 years old.
The ferry operates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.