Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse in Casco Bay, Maine, that marks the northern end of the main channel leading to Portland’s harbor.
Ram Island Ledge is a quarter-mile-long jagged finger of rock that marks the northern entrance to Portland’s outer harbor. The ledges, which can only sometimes be seen, were the cause of many shipwrecks over the years in the area. Ram Island Ledge garnered a reputation among local mariners as being the scariest feature to navigate around. One of the craziest statistics is that there were 4 wrecks at the ledge on May 27, 1866. One of the biggest events at the ledge was when the 400-foot steamship Californian (formerly known as the State of California) ran aground on the ledge on February 24, 1900, while en route from Portland to Glasgow, Scotland. There were no deaths and it took 6 weeks to get the ship floating again. As a result of that large mishap, the US Congress allocated funds to construct a lighthouse on the ledge.
In 1902, the government allocated $166,000 for the construction of a lighthouse and fog signal on Ram Island Ledge. In 1903, the ledges were purchased by the government so work could commence. Construction began in May of 1903 and it was not an easy build. The ledges had to be leveled, a bulkhead had to be installed to protect workers from water, and housing had to be set up on nearby Ram Island to house workers. Crews worked hard on the lighthouse and the tower reached 32 feet by September 1903. There were then problems with funds and supplies. Work continued from April to July in 1904. A thirteen-ton lantern with a third-order Fresnel lens was installed on the tower. The lighthouse reached a height of 90 feet with the lantern, with the light 77 feet above mean high water. About 9 months later, the lighthouse was first lit on April 10, 1905. The lighthouse helped mariners substantially and shipwrecks went way down in the area.
An underwater power cable was installed between Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge in late 1958, allowing the ledge lighthouse to be automated. On January 14, 1959, the last full-time Coast Guard personnel were removed from the lighthouse. The lighthouse was converted to solar power in 2000, and support of the lighthouse was licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation in October 2005. The original third-order Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern 300mm optic, which displays two white flashes every six seconds and an automatic foghorn blasts once every ten seconds when necessary.
Ram Island Ledge Light was put up for sale to the general public in July 2010. The starting bid was $10,000. The property was originally made available for free to other government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations, but there was no interest, so bids were opened to the general public. Jeffrey Florman, a surgeon from Windham, Maine, placed the winning bid of $190,000 on the auction.
Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse is located over a mile off the shore of Cape Elizabeth. One of the best viewpoints is from Fort Williams Park. Boats can get a closer look. The lighthouse is active but private.
The lighthouse is one of 5 Greater Portland & Casco Bay Lighthouses To Check Out. You can also find other great spots to explore in Maine at goxplr.com/map/maine!
- Constructed: 1905
- First lit: 1905
- Construction: Granite blocks
- Tower shape: Conical
- Height: 72 feet (22 m)
- Focal height: 77 feet (23 m)
- Markings: Natural (light gray) with black lantern
- Characteristic: Flashing white light every 6 seconds (Fl W 6s)
- Range: 8 nautical miles (15 km; 9.2 mi)
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 88000157
- Address: Ram Island
- Town: Portland
- State: Maine
- GPS: Lat 43.63148 Lng -70.18736
- Parking notes: Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse is located over a mile off the shore of Cape Elizabeth. One of the best viewpoints is from Fort Williams Park (the same parking lot used for Portland Head Light). Fort Williams Park is open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk. There is no entry charge, however, donations are welcome. There is a cost for parking in the park’s premium spaces from April 1 to November 15. In the Overflow Lot, there is free parking.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE