Lighthouses of Northern Panamá

This page includes lighthouses of Panamá's northern (Caribbean) coast. There is another page for lighthouses of the Pacific coast.

As one might expect, the lighthouses of Panamá are generally associated with passage through the Panama Canal. The Canal opened on 15 August 1914, after ten years of U.S. construction following earlier work by a French company.

In 1903, shortly after winning its independence from Colombia, Panama granted the U.S. extraterritorial jurisdiction over the Canal Zone. The Zone remained under exclusive U.S. control until the Panama Canal Treaty, ratified in 1978, provided for its restoration to Panama. Under the treaty, Panama assumed full operation of the Canal at the end of 1999. The U.S. Panama Canal Commission, which operated the canal until the reversion, is now the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (Panama Canal Authority).

The Authority is expanding the Canal, doubling its capacity by constructing a two new flights of locks and widening and deepening the entire route. However, the original locks will not be removed; to maximize capacity both sets of locks will be operated. Groundbreaking for this enormous project was held in September 2007, and the work is scheduled for completion in 2015. Fortunately, it appears that it will not be necessary to remove any of the historic lighthouses to construct the new locks and channels.

Some 35 range lighthouses were constructed to help guide ships through the Canal, and many of these lighthouses are reported still in service. However, no list of the lighthouses is available, and not all of them are listed here. Further information would certainly be very welcome.

The listing here is from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Isthmus of Panama runs east to west, and the Atlantic (Caribbean) coast lies north of the Pacific coast. Accordingly, northbound on the Canal means toward the Atlantic, and southbound is toward the Pacific. The actual zigzag course of the Canal has many turns separating straight sections called reaches.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals for the Atlantic coast and from volume G for the Pacific coast. U.S. NGA numbers are from Publication 110 for the Atlantic coast and from Publication 111 for the Pacific coast. The lights of the Panamá Canal itself are not listed by the Admiralty or by NGA.

General Sources
Online List of Lights - Panama (Caribbean) and Panama (Pacific)
Photos by Capts. Peter Mosselberger and Theo Hinrichs, posted by Alexander Trabas.
Panama Canal Range Lights
(652 kB pdf document) This report by Jan Rommers is a careful study of the lighthouses seen on a passage northward through the Canal on 29 January 2009. Photos are included for all the lighthouses seen.
Panamá Canal Lights - Page 1 and Page 2
Photos contributed by Jim and Hilari Seeri following an April 2010 passage through the Canal.
Panama Canal Lighthouses
Flickr album of photos taken by Larry Myhre in May 2012.
World of Lighthouses - Panama
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Lighthouses of Panama
Photos from around 2000 posted by Snow W. Frost.
Lighthouses of the Panama Canal
Additional comments on the lighthouses, with several aerial views formerly posted on the official canal web site.
Lighthouses in Panama
Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
Royal Geographical Society Map - Panama Canal 1914
This historic map shows the locations of the original range lights around Gatún Lake.
Leuchttürme Mittelamerikas und der Karabik auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard views posted by Klaus Huelse.
Gatún Northbound Rear Light
 Gatún Northbound Rear Light, Gatún, May 2012
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Larry Myhre
Northwestern Panama (Bocas del Toro Province) Lighthouse
Sixaola
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); white flash every 10 s. 12 m (39 ft) square cylindrical steel skeletal tower, painted white. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse marks Panama's border with Costa Rica, which lies along the Río Sixaola. Site status unknown. Admiralty J6072; NGA 110-16527.

Atlantic Approach Lighthouses
** Isla Grande
1894. Active; focal plane 93 m (305 ft); white flash every 5 s. 26 m (85 ft) steel skeletal tower with central cylinder. Lighthouse painted white. The original 2nd order Barbier & Cie. Fresnel lens from this light is on display at the Museo del Canal in Panamá City. Kelly Nielsen has a 2007 photo, a closeup photo is available, also a closeup of the lantern, Trabas has Capt. Peter's distant view, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse is a twin of the Toro Point Light (see below). This is a landfall light for ships arriving at the Canal from the northeast. Located at the highest point of Isla Grande, a resort island off Punta Manzanillo, about 80 km (50 mi) northeast of the Canal entrance. Accessible by a 30 minute walk from the town and from nearby resorts. Site open, tower reported open for climbing. ARLHS PAN-026; Admiralty J6138; NGA 110-16628.
Farallón Sucio (Sucio Rock) (2)
Date unknown (station established 1925). Active; focal plane 32.5 m (107 ft); red flash every 5 s. 7 m (23 ft) pyramidal concrete tower, painted white. Trabas has Capt. Peter's distant view, and José A. Jiménez also has a distant photo, but the island is barely visible in Google's satellite view. The original tower was a 6 m (20 ft) white, pyramidal steel framework tower on a tank house. Located about 10 km (6 mi) west northwest of Isla Grande. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS PAN-023; Admiralty J6136; NGA 110-16624.
Toro Point
1893. Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); white light, 5 s on, 25 s off. 27.5 m (90 ft) steel skeletal tower with central cylinder, mounted on a stone base. Entire lighthouse painted white. Trabas has Capt. Theo Hinrichs's photo (also seen at right), Peter Detwiler has a photo, a 2007 photo is available, Klaus Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. This elegant lighthouse, built by the French during their efforts to construct the Canal, is a familiar landmark for everyone passing through the waterway. Located at the root of the Limón Bay West Breakwater, on the west side of the entrance to Limón Bay from the Caribbean. Accessible by road, but site status unknown. ARLHS PAN-021; Admiralty J6092; NGA 110-16592.
Limón Bay West Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 30.5 m (100 ft); two very quick red flashes every 2 s. 31 m (102 ft) steel mast with gallery, a tripod base and a small metal equipment shelter, mounted on a triangular concrete platform. The tower carries a large slatted daymark, painted red. Google has a satellite view. Located just inside the hooked end of the west breakwater at the entrance to Limón Bay and the Canal. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Admiralty J6102; NGA 110-16600.
Limón Bay East Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); two short green flashes followed by one very long (5 s) flash every 20 s. 33 m (108 ft) steel mast with gallery, a tripod base and a small metal equipment shelter, mounted on a triangular concrete platform. The tower carries a large slatted daymark, painted green. Google has a satellite view. Located just inside the hooked end of the east breakwater at the entrance to Limón Bay and the Canal. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Admiralty J6098; NGA 110-16604.
Toro Point Light
Toro Point Light, Fort Sherman, April 2010
photo copyright Capt. Theo Hinrichs; used by permission
Gatún Area Lighthouses
* Atlantic Entrance Range Middle
1914. Active; focal plane 30 m (98 ft); continuous green light visible only on the range line. 23 m (75 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Trabas has Capt. Peter Mosselberger's photo (also seen at right), Myhre has a 2012 photo, Hanny Heim has a photo, Wikimedia has a 1993 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. The front light is on a small skeletal tower. This lighthouse faces southbound (Pacific-bound) ships approaching the Gatún Locks from the Atlantic side. These range lights are east of the original canal and west of the new locks, so the towers are not threatened by the construction. Located about 100 m (100 yd) east of the Canal near the southbound entrance to the Gatún Locks. Site and tower closed, but the lighthouse can be viewed from the end of a street nearby. ARLHS PAN-017; Admiralty J6132.1; NGA 110-16616.
* Atlantic Entrance Range Rear
1914. Active; focal plane 48 m (158 ft); occulting green light visible only on the range line. 14 m (46 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Jim Seery has a photo, Myhre has a 2012 photo, Trabas has Capt. Peter's photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on Lighthouse Road in the town of Gatún, roughly 500 m (0.3 mi) east of the Gatún Locks and 1.2 km (3/4 mi) south of the middle range light. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS PAN-018; Admiralty J6132.2; NGA 110-16620.
Gatún Northbound Rear (Gatún Locks)
1914. Active; green light occulting once every 4.5 s. Roughly 27 m (89 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white with blue trim. Larry Myhre's photo appears at the top of this page, Wikimedia has a photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Bing has a satellite view. This lighthouse is the rear light of the range for northbound (Atlantic-bound) ships approaching the Gatún Locks from Gatún Lake. The tallest and most conspicuous lighthouse of the Canal, it is frequently photographed. The photos show that the lighthouse has been restored and is in good condition. Michel Forand has historic photos of the original front light, now demolished; the modern front light is mounted somewhere near the end of the jetty projecting southward into Gatún Lake. Located on the west wall of the Gatún Locks. Site and tower closed, although the view from ships passing through the locks is excellent. ARLHS PAN-014.

Gatún Lake Range Lighthouses
Note: The crossing of Gatún Lake comprises 2/3 of the total length of the Panama Canal. Formed by damming the Río Chagres, the lake is maintained at an elevation of 26.7 m (88 ft).
Gatún Southbound Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Seerys have a photo, Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a concrete pier just off a peninsula projecting into the south side of Gatún Lake; this is the peninsula separating the two principal branches of the lake. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed.

Atlantic Entrance Range Middle Light, Gatún
photo copyright Capt. Peter Mosselberger
used by permission
Gatún Southbound Rear
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 27 m (89 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. No photo available, but Bing has a satellite view. This substantial lighthouse is located deep in the jungle about 800 m (1/2 mi) south of the front light; a cleared corridor connects the two lights. The site is accessible by boat along a twisting side channel of the lake. Site and tower closed. ARLHS PAN-029.
Peña Blanca Northbound Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. Rommers's photo is at right, the Seerys also have a photo, Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. The Peña Blanca Northbound lights can be seen from the starboard side of southbound vessels just as they begin their first turn south of the Gatún Locks. Located just off the waterfront on the west side of the lake about 4 km (2.5 mi) south of Gatún Dam. Site and tower closed.
Peña Blanca Northbound Rear
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. Rommers's photo is at right, the Seerys also have a photo, Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Google has a satellite view. Lighthouse painted white. Located between the two historic range lights. Site and tower closed.
Peña Blanca Southbound Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Rommers report has photos (page 5), Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a peninsula projecting into the lake on the north side of Barro Colorado Island. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed.
Peña Blanca Southbound Rear
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Rommers report has photos (page 5), Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of a cleared corridor on the north side of Barro Colorado Island, about 600 m (0.4 mi) southeast of the front light. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed.

Peña Blanca Northbound Range Lights, Gatún Lake, January 2009
photo copyright Jan Rommers; used by permission
Buena Vista Northbound Front
1914. Active; continuous green light. Roughly 14 m (45 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. Myhre has a 2012 photo, Betty Reed has a 2007 photo, the Seerys also have a photo, we have a photo looking down the reach toward the range lights, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on the east side of the canal near the end of the Bohio Peninsula projecting into the central part of Gatún Lake. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS PAN-034.
Buena Vista Northbound Rear
1914. Active; occulting green light. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. Myhre has a 2012 photo, Betty Reed has a 2007 photo, the Seerys also have a photo, we have a photo looking down the reach toward the range lights, and Bing has a satellite view. Located about 300 m (325 ft) behind the front light on the east side of the canal near the end of the Bohio Peninsula projecting into the central part of Gatún Lake. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS PAN-035.
Tabernilla Northbound Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. Rommers's photo is at right, the Seerys also have a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a peninsula projecting into the lake northwest of Frijoles. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed.
Tabernilla Northbound Rear
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. Rommers's photo is at right, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on the south side of the Bohio Peninsula near its base, northwest of Frijoles and about 800 m (1/2 mi) north of the front light. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed.
Buena Vista Southbound Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Rommers report has photos (page 3), the Seerys also have a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located in the open waters of the lake southeast of the Buena Vista Range. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Buena Vista Southbound Rear
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 15 m (49 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Rommers report has photos (page 3), and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the base of a forested peninsula on the east side of the lake, about 1.2 km (3/4 mi) southeast of the front light. Site and tower closed.

Tabernilla Northbound Range Lights, Gatún Lake, January 2009
photo copyright Jan Rommers; used by permission

Gamboa Area Range Lighthouses
Note: Gamboa is a town at the point where the Río Chagres makes a sharp turn and enters Gatún Lake. South of Gamboa, the Culebra Cut carries the canal through the Continental Divide.
San Pablo Northbound Front
1914. Active; continuous green light. Roughly 14 m (45 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white (this light appears not to be painted black on the rear). The Seerys' photo is at right, Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. The range helps guide northbound ships through the middle portion of the Mamei Curve, which connects the San Pablo and Gamboa Reaches. Located on the east side (really the north bank) of the Canal about 1000 m (0.3 mi) west of the Gamboa Northbound Front Light. Site and tower closed. ARLHS PAN-037.
San Pablo Northbound Rear (1)
1914. Inactive. Roughly 18 m (56 ft) concrete tower with lantern, painted black. The Seery's photo of this range is at right, and Bing has a satellite view. Located about 400 m (1/4 mi) behind the front light. Site and tower closed.
San Pablo Northbound Rear (2)
Date unknown. Active; characteristic unknown. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, with an enclosed equipment building in the base. The tower also carries a horizontally slatted daymark. Lighthouse painted white. The Seerys' photo of this range is at right, and Myhre has a 2012 photo. Located between the two historic range lights. Site and tower closed.
Tabernilla Southbound Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Rommers report has a photo (page 2), Myhre has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located near the waterline at the head of a bay in the southeast corner of the lake. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Tabernilla Southbound Rear
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white, at least on the side facing northbound ships. The Rommers report has a photo (page 2), and Bing has a satellite view. Surrounded by the jungle about 400 m (1/4 mi) south of the front light. Site and tower closed.
San Pablo Southbound Range Front
1914. Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 9 m (30 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. The Seerys have a good photo, the Rommers report has a small photo (bottom of page 2), Myhre has a photo of the range lights, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on an island on the south side of the canal at the exit from Gatún Lake. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Mamei Curve Northbound Lights
San Pablo Northbound Range Lights, Gatún Lake, April 2010
photo copyright Jim and Hilari Seery; used by permission
San Pablo Southbound Range Rear (2)
Date unknown (station established 1914). Active; characteristic unknown. Roughly 20 m (66 ft) skeletal tower carrying a daymark painted black with a white vertical stripe. The Rommers report has a small photo (bottom of page 2), Myhre has a photo of the range lights, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a hill about 1.2 km (3/4 mi) east of the front light. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Gamboa Northbound Front
1914. Active; continuous green light. Roughly 14 m (45 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white on the northbound side, black on the southbound. Myhre has a 2012 photo, the Rommers report has a photos (bottom of page 1 and top of page 2), and Bing has a satellite view. Located about 6 km (4 mi) west of Gamboa, marking the end of the Gamboa Northbound Reach leading into Gatún Lake. Site and tower closed. ARLHS PAN-028.
Gamboa Northbound Rear
1914. Active; occulting green light. Roughly 18 m (60 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white on the northbound side at least. The Seerys have a photo, Myhre has a 2012 photo, the Rommers report has photos (bottom of page 1 and top of page 2), we have a very distant aerial view (the lighthouse appears above the ship in the distance), and Bing has a satellite view. Located a short distance east of Darien marking the end of the westward Gamboa Reach leading into Gatún Lake. Site and tower closed.
* Gamboa Southbound Front (1)
1914. Inactive. Roughly 14 m (45 ft) concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted gray. This lighthouse faces southbound ships at the entrance to the Gaillard (Culebra) Cut from Gatún Lake. Jaime Iturralde's photo is at right, Myhre has a 2012 photo, a 2008 photo is available, Lighthouse Explorer has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse was abandoned and in poor condition as of 2000, but it has been at least partially restored. This light has been replaced by a light on a skeletal tower on the opposite (east) side of the Río Chagres. Located on the west side of the Río Chagres, at the entrance to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, in the town of Gamboa. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS PAN-027.
Gamboa Southbound Front (2)
Date unknown. Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 30 m (98 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower. The upper third of the tower carries a slatted daymark painted black with a white vertical stripe. Dana Krapfl has a photo of the range lights, and Google has a satellite view. Located a short distance north of the historic lighthouse. Site status unknown.
Gamboa Front Light
Gamboa Southbound Front Light, Gamboa, April 2011
Panoramio photo copyright Jaime A. Iturralde D.; used by permission
Gamboa Southbound Rear (2)
Date unknown. Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 30 m (98 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower. The upper third of the tower carries a slatted daymark painted black with a white vertical stripe. Dana Krapfl has a photo of the range lights, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the north side of the Canal on the east side of the Río Chagres. Site status unknown, but the light can be seen from the highway.

Note: Lighthouses of the Panama Canal continue on the Southern Panamá page.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: East: Colombia Caribbean | South: Southern Panamá | West: Costa Rica

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted April 2001. Checked and revised July 28, 2014. Lighthouses: 33. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.