Lighthouses of the United States: Kentucky

The U.S. state of Kentucky is located east of the Mississippi River and south of the Ohio River. The Coast Guard maintains hundreds of aids to navigation on those rivers and on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers as well, but only a few of those aids might qualify as lighthouses.

Note: to be listed here, a lighthouse must actually serve as an aid to navigation. This means it must be located on a navigable lake or river and must be lit as a navigational aid at least during the local boating season.

Special thanks to Ron Schooling for sharing his research on the lighthouses of Kentucky.

USCG numbers are from Volume 5 of the U.S. Coast Guard List of Lights.

Tennessee River (Kentucky Lake) Lighthouse
* Lighthouse Landing (Grand Rivers)
2003. Active; focal plane 40 ft (12 m); continuous white light. Approx. 26 ft. (8 m) square pyramidal wood tower with lantern. Lighthouse painted white, lantern red. A photo appears at right, another good photo and a third photo are available, Lighthouse Explorer has Nancy Rau's photo, and Google has a satellite view. This is one of only three known working lighthouses on the Tennessee River. The lighthouse marks the entrance to a marina on Kentucky Lake (Tennessee River) about one mile south of Kentucky Dam and Lock. Camping and rental cottages available on site. Located on KY 453 about three miles (5 km) south of I-24 exit 31 in Grand Rivers. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Lighthouse Landing.

Lighthouse Landing Light, Kentucky Lake, October 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by florador
Ohio River Lighthouses
Coast Guard Lifesaver Memorial
1976. Active; focal plane 29 ft (9 m); green flash every 4 s. 33 ft (10 m) round cylindrical caisson; the light is shown from a mast that also carries a square green daymark. The caisson is painted with diagonal black and white stripes in a "zebra" pattern. No ground-level photo available, but Google has a good aerial view. The light marks the point where westbound vessels enter a narrow passage between the south bank of the Ohio River and Shippingport Island in downtown Louisville. Located at the end of a partially submerged jetty extending from the southeastern tip of Shippingport Island. Accessible only by boat, but easily seen from the Louisville Riverwalk near the 9th street interchange of the I-64 expressway. Site status unknown. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. USCG 5-26780.
* Louisville Water Intake
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 25 ft (7.5 m); two red flashes every 6 s. Approx. 35 ft (11 m) masonry pumphouse connected to shore by a pedestrian bridge. The light is shown from a windowsill. A photo is available, Wikipedia has a view from the Indiana shore, and Google has a good aerial view. A more distant view shows a tall white tower similar to a lighthouse; this is the Louisville Water Tower (1856), a 183 ft (56 m) water standpipe. The Water Tower is floodlit at night, the "lantern room" shows a continuous amber light, and the top of the tower carries a flashing red aircraft warning light. Completed in 1860, Louisville's Pump Station No. 1 is a well known landmark, and both the Water Tower and the Pump Station are on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours are available occasionally. Located on the Ohio River at the foot of Zorn Avenue, just off Exit 2 of the I-71 expressway. Site open (parking provided), tower closed. Owner/operator: Louisville Water Company. USCG 5-26685.
* Captain's Quarters
1997. Active; focal plane 72 ft (22 m); continuous white light. 49 ft (15 m) lantern centered on a hexagonal wood 2-story house, built in the style of a Chesapeake Bay cottage screwpile lighthouse. House painted white with a red pyramidal roof. No ground-level photo available, but Google has a good aerial view. The lighthouse was for sale for $1.3 million in late 2011. Located on the south bank of the Ohio River across the street from the Captain's Quarter's Yacht Club at Harrod's Creek; this is directly across the river from Utica, Indiana. Site and tower closed (private residence), but the lighthouse can be seen easily from the street, the river, and the opposite shore. Owner/site manager: private.
Cincinnati Water Intake Pier
1907. Active; focal plane about 100 ft (30.5 m); two red flashes every 6 s. 100 ft (30.5 m) round stone tower with a "dunce cap" conical roof, attached to an oblong stone pump house and built atop a stone pier. The pier is connected to the Kentucky shore by a steel truss bridge. The light is displayed from a short mast next to the chimney of the building. The pump house, still in service, delivers water through a tunnel under the river to a purification plant on the Ohio shore. A photo by Dave Michaels is at right, a distant view is available, and Google has a good aerial view. Located on the riverfront Mary Ingles Highway (KY 8) in Fort Thomas. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Greater Cincinnati Water Works. USCG 5-25850.
Cincinnati Water Intake Light
Cincinnati Water Intake Light, Fort Thomas, January 2007
photo by Dave Michaels copyright HistoricBridges.org
used by permission

Lake Cumberland Lighthouse
* Conley Bottom
1996. Active; focal plane about 100 ft (30 m); flashing white light. 55 ft (18 m) slender round cylindrical steel tower, painted in a black and white spiral pattern. A photo is available (second row of photos), and Google has a satellite view. Also at Conley Bottom, the Lighthouse Café has a flashing amber light on a post mounted atop the building. Located at the entrance to the Conley Bottom Marina, on the south side of Lake Cumberland, in southeastern Kentucky, about 25 km (15 mi) north of Monticello. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Conley Bottom Resort.

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Louisville Waterfront Plaza (early 1990s), in Louisville, Kentucky, has twin 25-story buildings each crowned by a lighthouse. The lighthouses are active but do not function as aids to navigation. Google has a aerial view.
  • Miller's (2006), near Brandenburg, Kentucky, is an active light but its location on a private lake means it is not a general aid to navigation.

Adjoining pages: North: Indiana | Northeast: Ohio | South: Tennessee | Northwest: Illinois

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Posted July 15, 2003. Checked and revised July 24, 2013. Lighthouses: 6. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.