Kittery, Maine

Whaleback Lighthouse, perched on the rugged Whaleback Ledge at the entrance of the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine, is a beacon of maritime history.

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@kejames_photography (Instagram)

About This Location

Whaleback Lighthouse, perched on the rugged Whaleback Ledge at the entrance of the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine, is a beacon of maritime history and resilience. This iconic lighthouse has not only safeguarded countless ships but also stood the test of time as a symbol of coastal Maine's enduring spirit.

The story of Whaleback Lighthouse begins with the treacherous Whaleback Ledge itself. Before the lighthouse's construction, this rocky outcrop was a perilous menace responsible for numerous shipwrecks. One of the earliest recorded incidents occurred in February 1733 when a schooner foundered on the rocks, resulting in the loss of two crew members. Over the years, more vessels met their demise on these unforgiving shores. In March 1827, Congress recognized the need for a lighthouse, allocating $1,500 for its construction, though it was evident that more resources were required to conquer this remote and exposed location.

The first Whaleback Lighthouse emerged between 1829 and 1830, funded with additional appropriations. Rising 38 feet atop a 42-foot-diameter conical granite pier, this initial lighthouse featured two fixed white lights, one positioned 10 feet above the other, providing a unique navigational reference amidst the surrounding waters.

However, the unforgiving nature of the seas demanded a more robust structure. In 1872, a new tower emerged beside the original, substantially wider and taller, constructed with the same dovetailed granite blocks seen in other iconic lighthouses like Minot's Ledge Light and England's Eddystone Light. This newer and stronger tower included a fog horn tower, and in 1939, the Coast Guard took over its operations. By 1963, automation brought rotating aerobeacons to Whaleback Lighthouse, further enhancing its reliability as a guiding light to mariners.

Today, Whaleback Lighthouse, owned by the American Lighthouse Foundation and maintained by the dedicated Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, continues to play a vital role in navigation. However, the interior of this historic structure is in need of restoration, a testament to the ongoing efforts required to preserve these maritime landmarks.

In recognition of its historical significance, Whaleback Lighthouse was deservedly listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 23, 1988. This honor underscores the vital role it played and continues to play in our maritime heritage, ensuring that future generations can appreciate its legacy. It's reference number, assigned by the National Park Service, is 87002278.

Beyond its navigational importance, Whaleback Lighthouse has also become a beloved subject of photography for locals and tourists alike. Its striking presence against the coastal backdrop has made it a favorite hobbyist's destination. Many photographers gather at viewpoints on the mainland, with Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine, and Fort Stark Historic Site in New Castle, New Hampshire, being among the most popular. The lighthouse's enduring charm extends to capturing mesmerizing sunrises and moonrises, each frame preserving a piece of Whaleback Lighthouse's timeless allure.

Whaleback Lighthouse stands as a testament to maritime history, resilience, and the enduring beauty of Maine's coastline, its light shining not only across the waves but also through the annals of time.

Location Features

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Whaleback Ledge, Kittery, Maine

GPS Coordinates:
43.058767, -70.696310
Directions to location:
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Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
One of the best places to view the lighthouse from the shore is from Fort Foster in Kittery, Maine. Fort Foster State Park has a large parking lot. There is a fee charged during the summer, but during the off-season parking is free at Fort Foster.


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