Whaleback Lighthouse

Description

Whaleback Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse that stands at the mouth of the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine.

It is situated on a rocky outcrop (known as Whaleback Ledge) off the coast of Kittery, southwest of Fort Foster and south of Wood Island. Before the lighthouse was built, Whaleback Ledge caused numerous shipwrecks. One of the earliest known shipwrecks at the ledge occurred in February 1733, when a schooner ran into the rocks and sustained damage that caused the vessel to sink. Two of the five crew on board were lost at sea. More wrecks occurred in the years that followed, including that of the Maine schooner Fame in October 1827. In March 1827, Congress appropriated $1,500 for a lighthouse on the ledge, but that was clearly insufficient to build a lighthouse in such an unprotected and remote location.

The first Whaleback Lighthouse was built between 1829 and 1830 after more funds were secured. The 38-foot lighthouse stood on a 42-foot-diameter conical granite pier. The lighthouse had two fixed white lights, one 10 feet above the other, to distinguish it from other navigational aids in the area.

This first lighthouse was not built to withstand the area’s rough storms and high seas. The government tried to restore the lighthouse and add more reliability, but these efforts were unsuccessful. Finally, in 1872, a new lighthouse was built right next to the old one. This tower was significantly wider and taller than the previous one. This tower was reinforced with granite blocks dovetailed together in the same way that Minot’s Ledge Light in Massachusetts and England’s Eddystone Light were.

Over the years, there have been numerous additions and changes. A fog horn tower was added in 1872, and the lighthouse was automated with rotating aerobeacons in 1963. In addition, the lighthouse was taken over by the Coast Guard in 1939.

The American Lighthouse Foundation now owns Whaleback Lighthouse, which is maintained by its local chapter, Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses. The interior of the whaleback is in desperate need of restoration. Whaleback Lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Looking to explore more great Maine lighthouses nearby? Check out these 4 Beautiful Lighthouses on the Southern Coast of Maine. Find more great spots in Maine by visiting the GoXplr Maine Map at goxplr.com/map/maine!

Lighthouse Specs

  • Originally constructed: 1830
  • Current tower constructed: 1872
  • First lit: 1872 (current tower)
  • Construction: Granite blocks (current)
  • Tower shape: Conical
  • Height: 49 feet
  • Focal height: 59 feet
  • Markings: Natural
  • Characteristic: Grp Flash (2) White, 10s
  • Range: 14 nautical miles¬†
  • Status: Active
  • NRHP number: 87002278

Location

  • Address: Whaleback Ledge
  • Town: Kittery
  • State: Maine
  • GPS: Lat 43.058772 Lng -70.69629
  • Parking notes: There is a large dirt parking lot right at Fort Stark at the end of Wild Rose Lane in New Castle. The parking lot can hold about 3 dozen cars and it rarely fills up. Parking is free.
  • Parking directions: HERE
  • Location directions: HERE

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