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Craighill Channel Range Lights

Entrance to the Patapsco River, MD
Unlike most lighthouses on the Bay, which warn of shoals, these four lights mark a channel. Named after an engineer and longtime member of the lighthouse board, Craighill Channel cuts roughly five miles off the southern approach to Baltimore, entering Brewerton Channel (the main Patapsco River / Baltimore channel). Range lighthouses are used in pairs. Each one of the pair supports a light of different heights. When the two lights are aligned one is in the channel. The Craighill Channel range lighthouses are really two separate sets of lights built a bit over ten years apart. The existence of four lights with the same name creates a certain amount of confusion. Additionally, one notes on the chart that lower range lights are located further north (i.e. "up") than the upper range lights which are further south (i.e. "low"). The reason for this is sensible - The lower range lights mark the lower end, or beginning, of the channel. When the second set of lights come into line, a ship turns into the upper end of the channel. All four of these lights are still active navigational aids.

Craighill Channel Lower Range Light - Rear, cir. 1873

Craighill Channel Lower Range Light - Rear Originally the lighthouse board recommended a screwpile light for this location. However, the winter of 1872 - 73 was particularly severe and, in light of ice-related problems encountered with other screwpile lighthouses, a "more solid" structure was decided upon. This entailed building a cofferdam, and laying nine granite supporting piers. On these piers was built a 105 foot, four-sided, iron frame enclosing a two-story Victorian keeper's house with a rectangular tower rising through the center with two levels of balconies by the lantern. The architecture of this light is unique in the Bay. Unfortunately, the interesting keepers dwelling was torn down in the 1930s when the light was automated.


Location: 39.2291N 76.3942W
Date Built: Commissioned 1873 (using temporary lights), Fully completed in 1875
Type of Structure: Pyramidal iron frame surrounding a plate-encased stairway leading to double-decked lantern
Height: 105 feet above mean high water
Characteristics: Fixed white
Range: 16 miles
Status: Standing and Active

Craighill Channel Lower Range Light - Front, cir. 1873

Craighill Channel Lower Range Light - Rear This is the first caisson light built on the Bay and the first built in the United States. It represented the cutting edge of lighthouse construction at its time. Construction involved a number of difficulties, including a bottom so soft a piling would sink 20 feet under its own weight. This made setting the foundation extremely difficult. Finally groups of piles were driven deeply and flush into the mud and the caisson set on top of this base. Extensive rip rap stone was also laid. This lighthouse supports two lights - a standard fourth order Fresnel lens in the lantern, and the separate range light mounted on the side. It was used by the Coast Guard as a radio transmission station, so was not fully automated until 1964.


Location: 39.1886N 76.3945W
Date Built: Commissioned 1873 (using temporary lights), Fully completed in 1875
Type of Structure: Caisson with circular dwelling / tower
Height: 39 feet above mean high water
Characteristics: Fixed white + a flashing white main light with one red sector
Range: 16 miles
Status: Standing and Active

Craighill Channel Upper Range Light - Rear, cir. 1886

Craighill Channel Lower Range Light - Rear Thirteen years after establishment of the original Craighill Channel range lights, a second set of range lights were constructed to mark a new, upper, cutoff between Craighill and Brewerton channels. These second set of lights are built on a much less ambitious scale than the first. The rear light consists of an iron frame supporting a wooden tower that is covered with corrugated iron. A locomotive headlight was used as the original lantern and the keeper lived in a house next to the tower. The light was automated in 1929.


Location: 39.2162N 76.4627W
Date Built: Commissioned 1886
Type of Structure: Pyramidal iron skeleton supporting a square shaft leading to the lantern
Height: 64 feet above mean high water
Characteristics: Fixed red
Foghorn: No
Status: Standing and Active


Craighill Channel Upper Range Light - Front, cir. 1886

Craighill Channel Lower Range Light - Rear The front light of the Craighill Channel upper range sits upon the foundations of an earlier lighthouse - the old North Point light. That light had been deemed unsuitable for incorporation into the new range, so was torn down and replaced with the current, small, red and white brick, octagonal tower. Originally a keepers dwelling was located on shore and a wooden bridge connected the light to the shore. However, this was destroyed by a storm in 1893. Rather than rebuild the bridge, it was decided that the keeper would move into the less than twelve foot square lighthouse and use a small skiff to get to shore. The accommodations were so cramped that the lantern had to be relocated on the outside of the tower. Like its companion light, it was fully automated in 1929.


Location: 39.1971N 76.4482W
Date Built: Commissioned 1886
Type of Structure: Brick octagonal tower
Height: 15 feet above mean high water
Characteristics: Fixed red
Foghorn: No
Status: Standing and Active
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