Timbalier Bay Lighthouse

Oct. 22, 2019

Timbalier Bay Lighthouse, Timbalier Bay, Louisiana

Built in 1857.


Station Established: 1857
Year Current Tower First Lit: 1917
Operational: No
Automated: 1939
Deactivated: 1950s
Tower Shape/Markings/Pattern: Square cylindrical tower on roof of dwelling
Height: 30' (1903)
Original Lens: Lens lantern (1903)
Characteristic: Flashing white
Fog Signal: 

Historical Information:

  • On August 3, 1854, Congress appropriated $15,000 "for a light station to mark the entrance to Timbalier Bay and for coast purposes." The lighthouse was reported completed in 1857. 
  • During the Civil War the light was discontinued. Upon the occupation of the southern portion of Texas by Union forces in 1864, application was made by the military authorities for the reestablishment of the Timbalier light. Measures were promptly inaugurated to ascertain the condition and necessities of the station and suitable illuminating apparatus was sent to be put in position when requisite repairs had been completed. 
  • The tower was described in 1867 as built upon a low sand beach near the point of Timbalier Island which, by that year, had been encroached upon by the sea until it was entirely surrounded by water.
  • By February 1867 the tower was in danger of falling and workmen were sent to take down the lens and establish a beacon on top of the dwelling. On the 29th and 30th of March 1867, during a hurricane, the dwelling, together with the tower, and everything about the station was leveled to the ground and covered with 3 to 6 feet of water. The keepers barely escaped with their lives and lived for some days in an iron can buoy. 
  • Congress appropriated $50,000 for a new lighthouse on March 3, 1869, followed by two similar amounts in 1871 and 1873. A final appropriation of $15,000 was made in 1874. With $120,000 of these appropriations a new iron screw-pile lighthouse, with focal plane 125 feet above sea level, was completed by January 1875. The new lighthouse was placed in the water inside the island, which acted as an effective breakwater. The design was a skeleton frame work with a spiral stairway, enclosed by sheet iron, giving access to the lantern and provided with a keeper’s dwelling in the lower part of the tower. The lens was a second-order, showing a fixed white light varied by red flashes.
  • In 1894 the light tower was undermined by the scouring of the channel and on the morning of January 23, 1894, it canted over. The illuminating apparatus was saved but was in damaged condition. An attempt was made to take the dismantled tower to pieces and save it, but owing to the inability of the lighthouse tender to approach near enough to the wreck, the work was discontinued and the lighthouse was abandoned. The Lighthouse Board decided that requirements of navigation were not such as to justify the rebuilding of the tower, but decided to use instead a lens-lantern light.
  • The present structure was rebuilt in 1917. It is a white square tower on a wooden dwelling built on piles and stands in 6 feet of water off the north side of the east end of the island. The light was changed to unwatched operation in 1939 and consisted of an 850-candlepower light which was 56 feet above the water and could be seen 13 miles, flashing white every 4 seconds. The building was later used as a daybeacon but was destroyed by hurricane Juan in 1985.