Jamestown, Rhode Island

Located at the tip of Beavertail Point in Jamestown, Rhode Island, Beavertail Lighthouse stands as a testament to both history and natural splendor.

Location Added By:

Tom Riley (GoXplr Account)

About This Location

Nestled in the coastal beauty of Jamestown, Rhode Island, Beavertail Lighthouse stands as a testament to both history and natural splendor. This historic structure has been a guardian of the seas and a symbol of maritime heritage for generations.

A Strategic Location

Beavertail Light finds its home at Beavertail Point, a windswept and rocky promontory marking the southern tip of Conanicut Island. This location is of immense strategic importance, serving as the sentinel between the East and West passages of Narragansett Bay. Early settlers recognized its significance, as did merchants concerned for the safety of their vessels navigating these waters. Prior to 1705, a watch house had already been established at Beavertail, and local Native Americans tended to the beacon.

The Call for a True Lighthouse

With Newport's foreign trade thriving, local merchants joined forces in 1730 to petition for a proper lighthouse. The colony authorized its construction in 1738, but the outbreak of war with Spain delayed the project until 1749 when a wooden lighthouse finally graced the shores. To cover maintenance costs, a tax was imposed on all vessels entering nearby harbors.

The 1749 Tower and the Arrival of Peter Harrison

The 1749 lighthouse tower had a base diameter of 24 feet, narrowing to 13 feet at the top, and its total height reached 69 feet, including an 11-foot-high lantern with an 8-foot diameter. This historic light, known as "Newport Light" at the time, illuminated the night with the glow of whale oil lamps. The tower's design is attributed to Peter Harrison, a former sea captain often hailed as America's first architect. However, tragedy struck when, just four years later, the tower succumbed to fire, leading to its replacement with a stone tower.

The Shadow of War and the Darkened Light

The flames of the American Revolutionary War cast a shadow over Beavertail Lighthouse in 1779. British sailors, retreating from Newport, left a trail of destruction that included the burning of the lighthouse and the removal of its optics, rendering the light inactive for the remainder of the conflict.

A Beacon Reborn in Granite

In 1856, the current Beavertail Lighthouse emerged, constructed of durable granite. The tower's dimensions measure 10 feet square at the base and reach a towering 64 feet from ground to beacon. It possesses a focal height of 98 feet and houses a 3rd order Fresnel lens, which casts a radiant green flash every 9 seconds, reaching a range of 15 nautical miles.

Fog Signals and Assistance

The land surrounding the lighthouse became a testing ground for fog signals under the United States Lighthouse Board's watchful eye over the next 40 years. In 1898, quarters were added to the keeper's house to accommodate an assistant keeper, aiding in fog-signaling operations and other responsibilities.

Tragedy and Legacy

The 1938 hurricane wreaked havoc on the region, destroying the whistle house and unveiling the original base for the 1749 structure, which rests 100 feet from the present tower. Notably, Whale Rock, a few miles southwest of Beavertail Point, was home to the ill-fated Whale Rock Lighthouse and its keeper Walter Eberle, who tragically lost their lives in the hurricane; Eberle's body was never recovered.

A Transition to Modernity

In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard assumed control of all lighthouses and navigational aids. In 1989, Beavertail Light underwent automation as part of the Coast Guard's modernization program. The building was subsequently restored and opened to the public. This restoration effort was a collaborative endeavor involving the U.S. Coast Guard, Rhode Island Parks Management, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the town of Jamestown.

Preserving History: National Register of Historic Places and The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association

The inclusion of Beavertail Lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places on December 12, 1977, stands as a significant testament to its historical and cultural importance. This recognition is a prestigious honor that signifies the lighthouse's enduring legacy and its contribution to the rich tapestry of American maritime history. Being listed on the National Register affirms Beavertail Lighthouse's status as a cherished national treasure, ensuring its preservation for future generations to appreciate and learn from. With reference number 77000024, it serves as a symbol of Rhode Island's maritime heritage and a beacon of cultural significance that continues to shine brightly.

In 1993, the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association (BLMA) was founded to oversee the operations of the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, located within the assistant keeper's house. The museum offers visitors a glimpse into the history of many Rhode Island lighthouses and proudly houses a Fresnel lens as part of its exhibits.

A Beacon in Beavertail State Park

Today, Beavertail Lighthouse graces Beavertail State Park. Established in 1980 after the site was declared federal surplus land, the park area once served as Fort Burnside during World War II, one of several coastal fortifications safeguarding Narragansett Bay. Presently, the park is a haven for sightseeing, hiking, picnicking, and saltwater fishing. Seasonal nature programs provide educational opportunities for visitors.

Ample Parking and Coastal Beauty

Parking is conveniently available throughout Beavertail State Park, offering hundreds of spaces, all of which are free. Visitors can park just a few feet away from the lighthouse itself, providing an accessible vantage point to admire the historic tower and the natural coastal beauty that surrounds it.

Beavertail Lighthouse stands as a proud sentinel of Rhode Island's maritime heritage, guiding vessels safely through Narragansett Bay and captivating the hearts of those who visit its storied shores.

Location Features

No items found.


300 Beavertail Road, Jamestown, Rhode Island

GPS Coordinates:
41.449397, -71.399354
Directions to location:
Click here for location directions
Directions to parking area:
Click here for parking directions
Parking Notes:
Parking is available all throughout Beavertail State Park. There are hundreds of spots and all parking is free. Visitors can park just a few feet away from the lighthouse itself.


Have you visited this location before? Let us know what you thought! (Feature coming soon!)