Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light

July 23, 2019

Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland


Range lights are used in pairs to mark a channel.  Each one of the pair supports a light of different heights. When the two lights are aligned one is in the channel.  Named after an engineer and longtime member of the lighthouse board, Craighill Channel cuts roughly five miles off the southern approach to Baltimore, entering Brewerton Channel (the main Patapsco River / Baltimore channel).  As a major segment of the approach to the commercial ports of Baltimore this was a very important channel and the need to use it at night was acutely felt.  The four Craighill Channel range lighthouses are really two separate ranges built a bit over ten years apart.  The older and larger pair is the Lower Range and its construction coincided with a major dredging and enlarging of the Channel in 1870. 

The following four lights were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 2 December 2002.

Craighill Channel Lower Range – Front and Rear Lights

Location:  Entrance to the Patapsco River, MD, Chesapeake Bay
Date Built:  Commissioned 1873 (using temporary lights), Fully completed in 1875
Type of Structure:  Rear light – Pyramidal iron frame surrounding a plate-encased stairway leading to double-decked lantern.  Front light – caisson with circular dwelling / tower.
Height:  Rear light - 105 feet, Front light – 39 feet (main light), 22 feet – range.
Characteristics:  Fixed white for both range lights, The front light also has a flashing white main light with one red sector.
Range:  16 miles
Status:  Standing and Active

Craighill Channel Upper Range ("Cut-Off Channel") – Front and Rear Lights

Location:  Entrance to the Patapsco River, MD, Chesapeake Bay
Date Built:  Commissioned 1886
Type of Structure:  Rear – pyramidal iron skeleton supporting a square shaft leading to the lantern.  Front – brick octagonal tower.
Height:  Rear – 64 feet above mean high water, Front – 15 feet.
Characteristics:  Fixed red for both range lights
Foghorn: No
Appropriation:  $25,000
Status:  Standing and Active

Historical Information:   

  • Ten years after the completion of the Craighill Channel Lower Range Lights an appropriation was requested for a second set of range lights to mark a new “cut-off” channel between the Craighill and Brewerton Channels. These lights were designed and built on a much less ambitious scale than their older siblings.
  • The Upper Range Rear Light: The land for the rear light was purchased in the summer of 1885 and by the Fall work had begun. The tower consists of a simple pyramidal iron frame that surrounds a square wood-encased stairway that is covered with corrugated iron. A keepers dwelling was built nearby.
  • The Upper Range Front Light: Initially, it was hoped that the old North Point Rear Light tower could be converted for use as the new front light. However, it ended up being unsuitable and was dismantled. The old foundation was in good shape, so a new, smaller, octagonal, brick, tower was built upon it. Initially a small bridge connected the light to the shore, where a keepers dwelling was built. However, this was destroyed by a storm in 1893. Rather than re-build the bridge, it was decided that the keeper would move into the less than twelve foot square lighthouse and use a skiff to get to shore. Because of the cramped conditions, the lantern had to be moved to the outside of the tower.
  • Both lights were fully automated in 1929 and are still active.

Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland