Carysfort Reef Light

July 22, 2019

Carysfort Reef Light, Key Largo, Florida


Location: Carysfort Reef, near Key Largo
Station Established: 1825
Year Current / Last Tower(s) First Lit: 1852
Operational: Yes
Automated: 1960
Deactivated: 2015
Foundation Materials: Iron pile (although the structure was originally planned for screw piles, regular iron piles were used with iron foot plates)
Construction Materials: Iron
Tower Shape: Skeletal Octagonal Pyramidal
Tower Height:100 feet above water
Markings/Pattern: Red
Characteristic: "Gp. Fl. W., 3 R. sectors, 20 Sec., 3 flashes" (1933 Light List)
Relationship to Other Structure: Integral
Original Lens: Eighteen 21-inch reflectors (1852), First Order Revolving Henry Lepaute (1858)
Fog Signal: None

Historical Information:

  • A light ship was first stationed at Carysfort Reef in 1825.  The reef was named for the Royal Navy ship HMS Carysford which ran aground on the reef in 1770.
  • The original light ship was named Cesar after a nearby inlet.
  • The light ship had to be replaced after five years of service due to dry rot.  The second light ship was named Florida.
  • The Carysfort Reef light was the third offshore pile lighthouse in the United States and the first of the large iron pile lighthouses marking the Florida Reefs.
  • George Meade (later the Union commander at the Civil War battle of Gettysburg) was the last of three engineers who oversaw construction of the lighthouse.
  • The light's characteristic was listed in 1933 as "3 flashes 0.7 sec. each, 2 eclipses 4.3 sec. each, 1 eclipse 9.3 sec. White from 211° to 22°, from 49° to 87°, and from 145° to 184°; red in intervening sectors."
  • In 2015 the lighthouse was replaced by a modern steel skeleton tower located nearby.

Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Light House Society volunteer. Refinements and additions made by Neil Hurley, Florida Lighthouse Historian and author of “Lighting Carysfort Reef.”