Owls Head Lighthouse
Owls Head Lighthouse Video
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The Owls Head Light is located in Western Penobscot Bay, at the southern side of the entrance to Rockland Harbor in Owls Head Maine.
Owls Head Light
Owls Head, ME
Year Light First Lit:
Yes, active aid to navigation
Tower Height: 30 feet
Fourth Order Fresnel
Accessible by car; can also be viewed by boat/boat tour
Open to public:
Yes, open to public
Owls Head Light - overlooking Penobscot Bay and the southern entrance to Rockland Harbor
Owls Head Light (+44° 5' 33.00", -69° 2' 39.00") is located in Western Penobscot Bay, at the southern side of the entrance to Rockland Harbor. The lighthouse is a surprisingly short 30-foot cylindrical tower constructed of granite and brick. It is a white tower with a black lantern. Despite the tower’s height, the light shines 100 feet above sea level, thanks to a well-placed hill.
Owls Head Light is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation with a characteristic of a fixed white light with a range of 16 nautical miles. The fog signal sounds 2 blasts every 20 seconds. The 1856 fourth-order Fresnel is still in use today. It is one of the last 6 Fresnel lenses still in operation in Maine.
A booming lime trade in Rockland and Thomaston created a need for a light station at Owl's Head. President John Quincy Adams gave the go-ahead in 1825 and the squat tower was erected the following year. The lighthouse was designed by Green & Foster and Jeremiah Barry. In 1856, a keeper’s dwelling was added a short distance away from the tower. A generator house and oil building were added in 1895.
Locals love to share the story of the “Frozen Couple of Owl’s Head.” A bad storm hit the area in December of 1850. A small schooner from Massachusetts was anchored at Jameson’s Point with three people on board: the mate, Richard B. Ingraham; seaman Roger Elliott; and Lydia Dyer, Ingraham’s fiancée. Strong gales snapped the schooner’s cables and the vessel ran aground just south of the lighthouse. Elliott left the vessel and climbed to shore to find help. The keeper just happened to be passing by in his sleigh, saw Elliott, and brought him back to the house. Though Elliott could barely talk, he told the keeper of his two shipmates. The keeper rousted a rescue party and headed for the wreck. When they got there, legend has it that they found a block of ice enveloping Ingraham and Dyer. The couple appeared to be dead, but the rescuers brought the block of ice back to the house. They chipped the ice away, keeping the couple in cold water, and then slowly raised the temperature of the water, while massaging and maneuvering the couple’s extremities. After two hours of this, the couple woke up and asked where they were. Elliott never fully recovered, but the couple whose lives he saved hailed him as a hero, and his heroism lives on in maritime lore..
Spot, the English Springer Spaniel, was another maritime celebrity in the 1930’s. Spot would grab hold of the fog bell’s rope with his teeth and pull each time a vessel approached. Soon, vessels began to answer Spot with a whistle’s salute. One night, during inclement weather, the Matinicus mailboat almost ran aground at Owl’s Head. The captain of the vessel heard Spot’s warning just in time and steered clear of the rocks. Spot now rests in peace near the former location of the fog bell.
Owls Head Light was automated in 1989. The lighthouse is now part of Owls Head Light State Park. The grounds are open to the public. The 1854 keeper’s dwelling serves as a residence for Coast Guard personnel and is closed to the public. The bell tower is gone, but the 1895 oil house remains.
The lighthouse can also be seen from the Vinalhaven ferry and from various cruise vessels operating out of Rockland, Rockport, and Camden..
Owls Head Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We would like to thank Robert English for granting us permission to use his images of Owls Head Light. You can view more images of Owls Head Light and Maine Lighthouses by visitng Robert's Flickr page.