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I worked as a tour guide for two summers at the Umpqua River Lighthouse in Oregon. This opportunity enabled me to learn more about this lighthouse than any of the others I've seen. Although I have personally visited 302 lighthouses in the United States and three Provinces in Canada, the Umpqua River Lighthouse has special meaning for me. This is where I was inspired to write my book titled, "The Wickie."

Book Info.


Check out my book,"THE WICKIE." - - - - -. SEE THE COVER BELOW.

This 1860's story about the lighthouse keepers and their families at the Umpqua River Lighthouse will warm your heart. Discover the challenges they met but never expected, and their determination to maintain navigational aid to mariners on the Oregon coast.

To order your signed copy of "The Wickie", send an e-mail to awbates1955@gmail.com. The Book is $15 plus tax and shipping.




10 April 2014

Mississippi - Biloxi Lighthouse

The Biloxi Lighthouse is located on Highway 90 at the foot of Porter Ave in Biloxi, MS. The lighthouse sits in the median strip between the lanes of Hwy 90.

This lighthouse is reportedly the first cast-iron tower in the south, and was fabricated by Murray & Hazelhurst Vulcan Works of Baltimore, MD. It was shipped south aboard the brig General North. Construction was completed in 1848 and included lining the 48-foot cast-iron tower with locally made brick. The light was provided by a series of 9 lamps and 14" reflectors. In 1856 the lamps were replaced by a fourth-order Fresnel lens.

Originally, the lighthouse was constructed on a sand bluff. Failure of a retaining wall, as a result of neglect during the Civil War, caused the tower to incline two feet from the perpendicular. In 1867, although a difficult feat, workers excavated just enough sand from beneath the opposite side of the tower to right and keep it from toppling into the Gulf. Also about this time, a coating of black tar was applied to the cast iron tower to halt rusting. Although it was soon repainted white, a local legend evolved that Biloxians painted the tower black to mourn the death of President Lincoln. Except for a brief period during the Civil War, the light has shown continuously since 1848 when its lens was hidden by the local home guard. After the war, the lighthouse was fitted with a fifth-order lens.

In 1926 the light was electrified, and in 1939 the U.S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the light's operation. After being declared surplus property in 1968, the Biloxi Lighthouse was deeded to the City of Biloxi.

This lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also has the distinction of having more female keepers for more years than men.

At the time of my visit here in 2000, the light was active and daily tours were conducted Monday through Saturday, except for holidays. A fee was charged for the tours and they started at 10 AM.

03 April 2014

Alabama - Mobile Point Lighthouse

The Mobile Point Lighthouse is located at Fort Morgan, AL. The first lighthouse built here in 1822 was a 55-foot brick tower containing a fourth-order lens. Light was provided by twenty-one lamps and fourteen-inch reflectors. The light was visible from 12 to 14 miles out to sea. Because Mobile Point's light was equivalent in power to a common harbor light, the Lighthouse Board made a decision to erect a new seacoast light on Sand Island using a more powerful first-order lens.

In 1858 the Mobile Point Lighthouse received a new fourth-order Fresnel lens and its status was confirmed as a harbor light. In mid-1861 the lens was removed for safekeeping and shipped to Montgomery, AL. In 1864 the brick lighthouse tower became the target for Union artillery during the siege of Fort Morgan. When the Fort surrendered on Aug 23, 1864 the lighthouse had suffered irreparable damage and the old brick tower was demolished. At the end of the war a temporary wooden tower was built and housed the fourth-order Fresnel lens.

In 1873 a new iron lattice-work 30-foot tower, pictured above, was erected. The 1858 fourth-order Fresnel lens was placed in the lighthouse's lantern room. The light served as a guide to mariners until 1966 when it was extinguished and deactivated.

At the time of my visit here in 2000, the lighthouse remained inactive.


27 March 2014

Alabama - Sand Island Lighthouse

The Sand Island Lighthouse is located approximately 3 miles offshore from Mobile Bay, AL It is on the west side of the main entrance to the bay.

The original lighthouse built in 1838 was 55-feet high. Its light was provided by multiple lamps and reflectors. Due to erosion of the island, the lighthouse was in jeopardy so a new lighthouse was built in 1856. This one was constructed of brick and stood 150-feet high. Its light was provided by a first-order Fresnel lens.

During the Civil War that tower was blown up and destroyed beyond repair. A temporary wooden tower was built at a height of 48-feet and the lantern room contained a fourth-order lens.

In 1873 a new brick tower was constructed and stands 132-feet tall. It was fitted with a new second-order Fresnel lens. However, due to erosion of the island, this new tower was built further northwest of the temporary tower. Since then the new tower has withstood hurricanes and been threatened by continuing erosion. Some keepers of this lighthouse and their families lost their lives during hurricanes, and other keepers lost their lives traveling to shore while the sea was rough. Multiple keeper dwellings have been built over the years and destroyed by erosion and weather.

The Coast Guard took over responsibility and control of this lighthouse in 1939. The lighthouse was automated in 1948 and the need for keepers was discontinued. The light was darkened in 1971and the second-order Fresnel lens removed and placed on display at the Fort Morgan Museum.

I visited this lighthouse in the year 2000. The land you see in the above picture is all that remains of the island. It was approximately 400 acres when the original lighthouse was built. Through time and massive erosion, the ocean waters have consumed almost all of the island, but the lighthouse stood at the time of my visit.



20 March 2014

Florida - Sand Key, Alligator Reef, and Sombrero Key Lighthouses

The Sand Key Lighthouse is located 8.5 miles southwest of Key West, FL. The first lighthouse built here in 1827 was replaced by this one in 1853. This is one of six Florida reef lighthouses. At the time of my visit here in 2001, this was an active lighthouse.


The Alligator Reef Lighthouse is located 4 miles east of Indian Key, FL. The tower was finished in 1873 and enclosed a square keeper's dwelling more than 20 feet above the Gulf waters. From it, a circular staircase within a central shaft rises to the lantern deck. The new lantern room was fitted with a first-order Fresnel lens which emits a sequence of white and red flashes out to sea at a height of 136 feet above the water.

Some of the most intense weather to ever effect the light was the infamous "Labor Day hurricane" in 1935.  It raked the Florida Keys and took a toll of nearly 400 lives. There was a twenty-foot storm surge and accompanying 200 MPH winds. One of the most violent tropical storms to strike the U.S. The barometric pressure dropped to 26.35 inches -- the lowest reading ever noted in the western hemisphere at the time. The lighthouse survived the blow, essentially because its skeletal construction offered only the barest resistance to the madcap seas. The wind took out every station window except one. The Coast Guard automated the light in 1963.

At the time of my visit here in 2001,  this light was active. I saw this lighthouse from US Highway 1 on my way to Key West, FL but didn't get to photograph it. The above picture and some of the data was taken from a lighthouse magazine to document part of this lighthouse's history, and to preserve the memory of another Florida lighthouse that I've seen.


The Sombrero Key Lighthouse is located near Marathon, FL. It was built in 1858 and is the tallest at 142-feet of the six skeleton towered Florida Reef lighthouses. It was the third of the series and the last of its type in which engineer Lt. George Meade played a significant role. The huge cast-iron structure stands on a coral bed almost five miles south of Vaca Key, FL.

Over the years, this rugged tower has also survived the mightiy blows Mother Nature has thrown at it, suffering only minimal damage. Periodic scraping and painting of the metal has kept the entire framework in remarkable shape. Coast Guard keepers left the station for good in 1963. The modern twelve-volt optic, which replaced the original Fresnel lens, routinely furnishes a flashing white light that guides mariners past the surrounding reefs. The glass-prismed Fresnel lens was removed in 1982 and is displayed at the Key West Lighthouse Museum.

At the time of my visit her in 2001, this light was active. I also saw this lighthouse from U.S. Highway 1 on my way to Key West, FL, but didn't get to photograph it. The above picture and some of the data was taken from a lighthouse magazine to document part of this lighthouse's history, and to preserve the memory of another Florida lighthouse that I've seen.