Lighthouses of the United States: Alabama

The U.S. state of Alabama has a short coastline on the Gulf of Mexico west of Florida, with a major port at Mobile facing the broad waters of Mobile Bay. The state has three historic lighthouses, but only one is active and another has been removed indefinitely for restoration. A state preservation society, the Alabama Lighthouse Association, was formed in 2002. And there's work to do, because the state's record in lighthouse preservation is very poor. The Sand Island Lighthouse, seen at right, is one of the most endangered lighthouses in the nation.

The Sand Island and Mobile Bay lighthouses were damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and repairing the damage has delayed restoration efforts.

Navigational aids in the United States are operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, but ownership (and sometimes operation) of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities and preservation organizations in many cases. Alabama lights are the responsibility of the Coast Guard's Eighth District.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. USCG numbers are from Volume IV of the U.S. Coast Guard Light List.

General Sources
Alabama Lighthouse Association
The association assists preservation efforts at all three lighthouses.
Alabama Lighthouses
Excellent photos and accounts by Kraig Anderson.
Online List of Lights - U.S. - Alabama
Photos by Capt. Peter Mosselberger and Capt. Theo Hinrichs posted by Alexander Trabas.
Lighthouses in Alabama
Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
Historic Light Station Information and Photography - Alabama
Information and historic photos posted by the U.S. Coast Guard.
National Maritime Inventory - Alabama
National Park Service inventory of Alabama lighthouse data.
Mobile Bay Lighthouses
Posted by Brown Marine of Pensacola, this page has photos of the Mobile Point tower and the Fresnel lenses from Middle Bay and Sand Island.
Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.
U.S. Coast Guard Light Lists
Current light lists posted by the Coast Guard's Navigation Center.

 

Sand Island Light
Sand Island Light, July 2008
photo copyright Capt. Peter Mosselberger
used by permission

Gulf of Mexico Lighthouses

Sand Island (Mobile County) Lighthouses
Sand Island (3)
1873 (station established 1838). Inactive since 1933. 131 ft (40 m) round brick tower with lantern and gallery. The tower is unpainted; lantern and gallery originally painted black, although not much paint remains. Sibling of Bodie Island NC. The original 2nd order Fresnel lens is on display at the Fort Morgan Museum. The keeper's house burned in 1925. Capt. Peter's photo is above, Cheryl Bosarge has a 2009 closeup, Gordon Vernon has a late 2006 closeup, a 2010 view from the Dauphin Island Ferry is available, the Dauphin Island Foundation has a page on the history of the light station, a historic photo is available, and Huelse has a historic postcard view, but the tiny island is only a blur in Bing's satellite view. The second tower (1859) was destroyed during the Civil War. Critically endangered: the island has dwindled to a sandbar and the tower suffers from years of neglect. The lighthouse is a longtime resident of the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List. Preservationists first asked the Alabama Historical Commission to take over the site, but in early 2001 the Commission refused to do so. In early 2002, preservationists announced the Dauphin Island Foundation would serve as fiscal agent for the restoration. In early 2003, the state granted $100,000 for a feasibility study to determine if the lighthouse could be relocated to Dauphin Island, but the recommendation was to try to restore it in place. In October 2003, ownership was transferred to the town of Dauphin Island. In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan severely damaged the brickwork and foundation of the tower, and the lighthouse suffered additional damage by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. In 2006, Thompson Engineering was hired to conduct an engineering study of the lighthouse. In late 2007, the federal government released $320,000 in funds to repair hurricane-related damage, and work to stabilize the foundation of the lighthouse was carried out in the summer of 2008. In late 2010, the Corps of Engineers approved a project to place millions of cubic yards of sand (dredge spoil) around the lighthouse to protect it aginst erosion; the funds come from the BP oil spill mitigation funding. This project was carried out in the fall of 2011. The artificial island lasted only a year; it was completely washed away by Hurricane Isaac in September 2012. Saving this lighthouse requires a multimillion dollar project similar to the project that has saved the Morris Island Lighthouse near Charleston, South Carolina. No such project is contemplated. Located about 2 miles (3 km) southwest of Mobile Point. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Town of Dauphin Island. ARLHS USA-723.
Mobile Lower Reach Outer Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 82 ft (19 m); white light, 2 s on, 2 s off, visible only on the range line. There is also a passing light, white flash every 4 s, at a focal plane of 23 ft (7 m). 82 ft (19 m) triangular cylindrical skeletal tower, painted white, mounted on a triangular platform supported by piles. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, a 2010 view from the Dauphin Island Ferry is available, and Bing has a satellite view. Located just outside the entrance to Mobile Bay, about 1 mi (1.5 km) southwest of Mobile Point. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3465.1; USCG 4-6245.

Mobile Point (Baldwin County) Lighthouses
#Mobile Point (Range Rear) (2)
1873 (station established 1822). Inactive since 1963. 30 ft (9 m) cast iron skeletal tower, painted black. The original 4th order Fresnel lens (1858, transferred from the earlier tower) is on display at the Fort Morgan Museum. The 1-1/2-story wood keeper's house (1872) has been restored and is used by state parks personnel. Bill Echelberger has a 1997 photo, and the Coast Guard has a historic photo. This light station stands on the east side of the entrance to Mobile Bay. The first lighthouse here was heavily damaged during the Civil War. Originally built on top of the walls of Fort Morgan, the present light tower was removed and sold for scrap in 1966. Fortunately the buyer, a junk dealer, kept the tower intact in his junkyard until it was rescued and restored for display outside the fort. By 2003, however, the lighthouse was rusting and much in need of further restoration, so it was removed from display. The dismantled lighthouse is in storage at the Robinson Iron Company in Alexander City, which specializes in cast iron restoration. So far no funds have been found or provided for this work. It's hard to believe this, but the disassembled lighthouse is stored in the open, where it continues to deteriorate. In June 2010, Tim Harrison of Lighthouse Digest published an article sharply criticizing the historical commission's inaction on the restoration, and the Digest has added the lighthouse to its Doomsday List. There is no excuse for the mismanagement and neglect of this historic lighthouse. Owner/site manager: Alabama Historical Commission. ARLHS USA-506.
* Mobile Point (Range Rear) (3)
1963 (station established 1822). Active; focal plane 125 ft (38 m); white flash every 10 s. 110 ft (33.5 m) square steel skeletal tower with gallery, painted white. The tower also carries the rear light of the Mobile Point Range (continuous red light by day, white light by night) at a focal plane of 80 ft (24 m). In addition, the tower formerly carried a rectangular daymark painted red with a white vertical stripe. The daymark is still listed, although it was removed in 2006. Larry Myhre's photo is at right, Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, Shaney Gober's 2007 photo shows the tower and the 1872 keeper's house, Anderson has a photo showing the former daymark, and Google has a satellite view. Located adjacent to historic Fort Morgan, just off AL 180 at the tip of Mobile Point in Gulf Shores. Site open, tower closed. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: Alabama Historical Commission. Admiralty J3438.1; USCG 4-0180.

Mobile Point Light, Fort Morgan, April 2010
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Larry Myhre

Mobile Bay Channel Lighthouses
Mobile Middle Ground Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 45 ft (14 m); green light, 3 s on, 3 s off, visible only on the range line. There is also a passing light, white flash every 4 s, at a focal plane of 17 ft (5 m). 45 ft (14 m) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted white, mounted on a square platform supported by piles. The tower carries a rectangular daymark colored red with a white vertical stripe. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Located just inside the entrance to Mobile Bay, about 1.5 mi (2.5 km) northwest of Mobile Point. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3462.1; USCG 4-6190.
Mobile Middle Reach Outer Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 67 ft (20 m); red light occulting once every 4 s, visible only on the range line. There is also a passing light, white flash every 4 s, at a focal plane of 12 ft (3.5 m). 67 ft (20 m) square skeletal tower, painted white, mounted on a square platform supported by piles. The tower carries a rectangular daymark colored red with a white vertical stripe. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. This range guides outbound vessels. Located on the centerline of Mobile Bay, about 1.8 mi (3 km) due south of the Mobile Bay lighthouse. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3482.81; USCG 4-6465.
Mobile Bay (Middle Bay)
1885. Active; focal plane 48 ft (14.5 m); red flash every 6 s. 48 ft (14.5 m) screwpile lighthouse (sibling of Hooper Strait MD) with hexagonal frame keeper's quarters, painted white; lantern removed 1967. 155 mm solar-powered lens on 6 ft (1.8 m) mast centered on the roof. The original 4th order Fresnel lens is on display at the Fort Morgan Museum. Dauphin Island Sea Lab maintains an automatic weather station at the lighthouse. Capt. Peter's photo is at right, a 2010 photo is available, Trabas has a photo by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, the Coast Guard has a historic photo, and Bing has a satellite view. A well known landmark in the bay, the lighthouse was saved from demolition by citizen protests. In early 2001 the lighthouse was in very poor condition, but later in the year Thompson Engineering was awarded a contract for its restoration. The lighthouse received a new, historically accurate slate roof, rotten wood and corroded tie rods were replaced, and the building was painted. In July 2008, the Alabama Lighthouse Association proposed relocating the lighthouse to the USS Alabama Battleship Park on the US 90 causeway east of Mobile. In June 2009, the Alabama Historical Commission held a public hearing on the possible relocation. The Mobile Bar Pilots Association voiced strong opposition to removing the lighthouse, and in December the Historical Commission voted unanimously to maintain the lighthouse in place. In early 2010, engineers surveyed the structure in preparation for needed repairs. The restoration got underway before the end of 2010 and was completed in 2012, at a cost of $270,000. However, in June 2013, the pilings supporting the lighthouse were damaged by collision with a shrimp boat. In late July, Baldwin County earmarked $100,000 of BP Oil tourist development funds to repair the lighthouse. The collision led the Alabama Lighthouse Association to renew its 2008 proposal to move the lighthouse to Battleship Park. Meanwhile, a lantern room and 4th order Fresnel lens supposed to be identical to the originals are on display at Mobile Regional Airport; this display will be moved to a new maritime museum, the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico; the long-delayed opening of the museum is expected in late 2014. Located in the middle of Mobile Bay. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Alabama Historical Commission. ARLHS USA-505; Admiralty J3488; USCG 4-6490.
Mobile Lower Reach Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 63 ft (19 m); white light occulting once every 4 s, visible only on the range line. There is also a passing light, white flash every 4 s, at a focal plane of 12 ft (3.5 m). 63 ft (19 m) square skeletal tower, painted white, mounted on a square platform supported by piles. The tower carries a rectangular daymark colored green with a red vertical stripe. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Located in the center of Mobile Bay, about 1.4 mi (2.2 km) north of the Mobile Bay lighthouse. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3464.1; USCG 4-6500.
Mobile Bay Light
Mobile Bay Light, July 2008
photo copyright Cpt. Peter Mosselberger
used by permission
Theodore Channel Outer Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 67 ft (20 m); white light, 2 s on, 2 s off, visible only on the range line. There is also a passing light, white flash every 4 s, at a focal plane of 15 ft (4.5 m). 63 ft (19 m) square skeletal tower, painted white, mounted on a square platform supported by piles. The tower carries a rectangular daymark colored red with a white vertical stripe. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Located east of the centerline of Mobile Bay, about 2 mi (3 km) east of Point Clear. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3493.51; USCG 4-7340.

Mobile Harbor (Mobile County) Lighthouses
Mobile Channel Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 55 ft (17 m); green light, 3 s on, 3 s off, visible only on the range line. There is also a quick-flashing white passing light at a focal plane of 14 ft (4 m). 55 ft (17 m) square skeletal tower, painted white, mounted on a square platform supported by piles. The tower carries a rectangular daymark colored red with a white vertical stripe. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Located about 1.25 mi (2 km) southeast of the Mobile airport. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3510.1; USCG 4-6650.
Mobile Middle Reach Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 67 ft (20 m); green light, 3 s on, 3 s off, visible only on the range line. 67 ft (20 m) square skeletal tower, painted white, mounted on a square platform supported by piles. The tower carries a rectangular daymark colored red with a white vertical stripe. Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Google has an aerial view. Located off the Mobile waterfront, a short distance southeast of McDuffie Island. Accessible only by boat, but there should be a good view from shore. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J3517.1; USCG 4-6675.

Central and Northern Alabama Lighthouses

Lake Martin (Elmore County) Lighthouse
* Children's Harbor
1989. Active; focal plane about 39 ft (12 m ); white light. Approx. 36 ft (11 m) octagonal wood tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern and gallery black. A fine closeup photo is available, Kenny Shackleford has a nice view, and Google has a satellite view and a fuzzy street view. The lighthouse is a replica of the Plymouth (Gurnet) Light in Massachusetts. It was built by Ben and Luanne Russell as the symbol of Children's Harbor, an adventure camp for children with special needs or serious illness. Lake Martin is a large artificial lake northeast of Montgomery, created in 1926 by damming the Tallapoosa River. Located at Providence Point, at the south end of the Kowaliga Bridge (AL 63), about 25 km (15 mi) south of Alexander City. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Children's Harbor.

Huntsville Area (Madison County) Lighthouses
* Langbakneset
1903. Inactive since 1966. 17 ft (5 m) octagonal cast iron lantern mounted on a round rubblestone foundation. Nearby is a square wood fog bell tower (1929) with bell. Mira d'Oubliette's photo is at right, and Google has a street view and an aerial view. The plaque on the base states that the lantern was a gift to Huntsville from Norway in 1973. There are scores of lanterns of this design still in use in Norway, but many others have been replaced by modern fiberglass lanterns. This one is from the Langbakneset (Langbaken) light (Admiralty L1020, NGA 115-6628) at Langøy, about 9 miles (15 km) west of Kristiansund. Located in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Huntsville.
** Butler Basin
2001. Active; focal plane 41 ft (12.5 m); white flash every 15 s. 36 ft (11 m) round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white, lantern black with a red roof. A photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. The builder claims that this is the only lighthouse on the Tennessee River, but there is an older lighthouse at Lighthouse Landing on Kentucky Lake (see Kentucky) as well as the Powell Harbor lighthouse at Guntersville (next entry). Located on a side channel of the Tennessee River at Butler Basin Marina, off Hobbs Island Road about 9 mi (15 km) southeast of Huntsville. Site open; visitors admitted to the lighthouse can climb to the gallery. Owner/site manager: Butler Basin.

Guntersville (Marshall County) Lighthouse
* Powell Harbor
1995. Inactive. 32 ft (10 m) square cylindrical wood tower with lantern room and gallery, painted white with a red spiral band. Donna Tomlin has a 2009 photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Built by Jimmy McClendon, this was formerly a working lighthouse; it was deactivated due to deteriorated wiring. Increasingly dilapidated, the lighthouse is much in need of renovation. Located on a point projecting into a arm of Guntersville Lake (Tennessee River mile 359), just north of highway 227 on the east side of Guntersville. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: private.

Langbakneset Lantern, Huntsville, July 2006
(with fog bell tower at right rear)
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Mira d'Oubliette

Information available on lost lighthouses:

  • Battery Gladden (1872-1951), off the southeast point of Pinto Island, Mobile. ARLHS USA-1006.
  • Choctaw Point (1831-1862), northeast point of McDuffie Island, Mobile. ARLHS USA-1007.
  • Grant's Pass (1864-1886), entrance to Mississippi Sound from Mobile Bay. ARLHS USA-1008.

Notable faux lighthouse:

  • Kennamer (2004) in the Brown's Creek area of Guntersville Lake near Guntersville, is not active as an aid to navgiation. Google has a street view and a satellite view. This tower was built as a classic folly by Jim Kennamer. The lighthouse and the estate on which it stands were for sale for $3.249 million in 2014.

Adjoining pages: North: Tennessee | East: Western Florida | West: Mississippi

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Checked and revised June 30, 2014. Lighthouses: 14. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.