Swan Island has not had ferry service since 2020, when the U.S. Coast Guard suspended the island’s ferry service following a failed inspection. A Richmond couple have restarted a ferry service to the island that will run on weekends, beginning July 27 through the end of the summer. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

RICHMOND — A local couple have figured out a way to return ferry service to Swan Island for the remainder of the summer after it was stopped in 2020 due to a failed inspection.

Swan Island, a state-owned wildlife management area, is about 350 feet off the coast of Richmond in Merrymeeting Bay, part of the Kennebec River. It has a rich history, including houses that date to the 1700s, a campground and hiking trails. 

People, including Jeremy and Amanda McDaniel, were devastated when the U.S. Coast Guard suspended the island’s ferry service in 2022 following a failed inspection that led to the service being halted in 2020.

Use of the island is free, and people can swim, paddle or take their own boats to the island, but the ease of getting there was reduced with the removal of the ferry service. 

Thanks to the efforts of the McDaniels, their friends and the Friends of Swan Island, a nonprofit dedicated to the island, a ferry service will run on the weekends starting July 27 through the end of the summer, temporarily solving the problem. 

“Amanda and I heard what was happening and we thought, ‘We have to keep this going,'” said Jeremy McDaniel. 


Within the first couple of minutes of the news of the ferry service hitting Facebook, Jeremy McDaniel said the time slots for the ferry were filled. 

They plan to shuttle people to Swan Island all day and offer a guided tour around the island, or people can explore it on their own. 

The town’s continued interest in the island is an optimistic look for the future as they work to find a permanent solution to the ferry after this summer, which after July 27, will run on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of the summer. The town paid for the ferry that day as part of Richmond Days, but the cost after that is being worked out by Friends of Swan Island and will go back to restoration efforts. 

“It does show the community has interest in Swan Island and a strong desire to support the Friends of Swan Island,” Jeremy McDaniel said. “There is an interest in learning more (about it), too. We haven’t been able to provide public transportation for two years and now we have this opportunity to say we recognize the importance of Swan Island … it’s outstanding.”

Amanda and Jeremy McDaniel of Friends of Swan Island sit on the island in the Kennebec River, between Richmond and Dresden. Photo courtesy of Amanda and Jeremy McDaniel


But the journey to get a ferry service back to the island was not easy.  


Over the course of a year, the McDaniels helped reform a group in town, Friends of Swan Island, to brainstorm and figure out how to tackle the issue.   

The couple fell in love with Swan Island after moving to town in 2020 and want other people to have the chance to explore the uniqueness of the island, explore and hopefully, over time, help with efforts to maintain the island. 

The 4-mile long island is on the National List of Historic Places with evidence of civilization on the island going back thousands of years. It was once home to the town of Perkins. In 2023, the island was listed as one of the most endangered places in the state by Yarmouth nonprofit Preserve Maine because the money the state spends to support the wildlife can’t be used to fix or maintain the buildings. 

The couple met with the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which is in charge of preserving the wildlife on the island, and found it had no intention of reinstating the ferry service. The U.S. Coast Guard shut down the ferry service — which had run for 60 years — after a failed inspection and the department noted the costs associated with running the ferry were also a contributing factor. 

Last year, the department told the Kennebec Journal that ending the ferry service will also allow it to focus on the island’s wildlife management. In 1988, the island became known as The Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area, named for a biologist who worked on Swan Island. 

“It’s been a really challenging battle,” Jeremy McDaniel said. 


Gary Smith, a friend of the couple who runs River Run Tours in Bath, has offered to help for the remainder of the summer. 

Smith has interest in the island from taking his boat around it and is fascinated by the island’s history. For years he has also wanted to camp on the island, so now he has his chance.  

With a Coast Guard captain license in hand, Smith will help shuttle people on Saturdays and Sundays throughout August and into the first week or two in September. 

“I offered asking what I could do to help and keep the interest, but also increase interest in Swan Island to make people realize they have a piece of history here to be preserved,” he said. 

Smith said he will bring people over to enjoy the island or take people around the island in a river tour, similar to what he does for his day job. The details of the remainder of the summer, including a boat schedule, will be available. But for July 27, Smith plans stops at the campground and the front of the island where people can catch a vehicle or walking tour led by Amanda McDaniel. 

Those interested in signing up for a ride to Swan Island can go to the island’s website. Ticket prices are being considered by the Friends of Swan Island and will be announced in the coming weeks. 

“I went for the first time recently and thought, ‘This is flat-out gorgeous,'” Smith said. “What a place to enjoy some of that Maine history and beauty.” 

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