Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
When visiting the promontory where the lighthouse is located you will notice the waves crashing over an unusual rock formation. They appear to be petrified wood but are actually quartzite and dark grey phyllite accumulating in alternating layers. As you look out over Portland Harbor and Casco Bay you will have the opportunity to view an additional four lighthouse towers. To your left (North) is Spring Point Ledge Light – built in 1897 – a caisson-style light station at the end of a rock breakwater. Directly in front of you is Ram Island Ledge light – constructed in 1905 – the beacon is now solar powered. During storms, the waves have been seen to crash over the top of the lantern room. Beyond Ram Island, about 10 miles out and only visible on a clear day, is Halfway Rock light station first lit in 1871. The name comes from its position halfway between Cape Elizabeth and Cape Small. Now look to your right (South) and you will be able to view Cape Elizabeth light. One of two towers originally built, the remaining operating tower was first lit in 1874.
Portland Head Light with Spring flowers – Photo by: Cindy Farr-Weinfeld
The Wave – Photo by: Benjamin Williamson
Beginning at the time of the American Revolution and continuing through WWII the armed fortification of Portland Harbor was critical. Looking north again you will see Fort Gorges on a small island in the harbor. Built during the Civil War, by the time the fort was completed the war had ended and the fort was obsolete. The property adjacent to Spring Point is Fort Preble built in 1808 and across the harbor from Fort Preble is Fort Scammel also built in 1808. Located on House Island, Fort Scammel was also the site of a US Immigration Quarantine Station from 1907-1937. Finally, the park you are visiting, once the site of Fort Williams, went into service in 1898 and was in use until 1962. The fort grounds provide numerous walking paths, a cliff walk offering spectacular views, and a newly planted Arboretum.
Portland Head Light scaffolding restoration, May 2016 [completed June, ’16] – Photo by: Cindy Farr-Weinfeld
Scaffolding restoration, May 2016 [completed June, ’16] – Photo by: Cindy Farr-Weinfeld
Construction workers on scaffolding, May 2016 [completed June, ’16] – Photo by: Cindy Farr-Weinfeld
Small excursion boats slow to allow passengers to take pictures as they pass – visitors on land often find themselves taking pictures of people taking pictures of them! Larger commercial ships also frequent the port including an average of 80 cruise ships per season, especially in the months of September and October.
The brightly colored buoys bobbing in the water surrounding the point are used to mark lobster traps. You may have the opportunity to see lobstermen pulling their traps as they do so several times per week.
On the days when skies are overcast and the fog settles in you might just hear the melancholy sound of the fog horn reminding us of the importance of the light stations and the dedication of the men and women who served through the years.