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Heron Neck Lighthouse

Heron Neck lighthouse

Greens Island, Maine
Built in 1854


On Greens Island, at the entrance to Hurricane Sound inside Penobscot Bay.

Latitude: 44° 01' 30" N
Longitude: 68° 51' 44" W


Historic Stories:

Heron Neck Lighthouse was constructed in 1854 on the Heron Neck portion of Green Island to help guide mariners in Penobscot Bay into Carver’s Harbor on Vinalhaven Island. The first keeper was James G. Smith, a native of Vinalhaven.

In a detailed report of Heron Neck Lighthouse, given around 1890, it sited the poor construction of the lighthouse keeper’s dwelling, which caused unhealthy conditions from the dampness and mold, and was noted for possibly attributing to five deaths. It was torn down and rebuilt in 1895.

In the early 1900s Heron Neck Lighthouse had a famous dog Nemo, who was trained by Keeper Levi Farnham to bark when he heard a ship’s whistle from approaching boats on foggy days. Nemo was a large Newfoundland dog named after Jules Verne’s famous book “Captain Nemo.” The sounds were termed as “fog barks” and for years Nemo would go near the shore and listen for ships’ horns over the quiet waters on foggy days. He would then let out his loud deep barks to warn mariners of his location. In fair weather, boats would come close to shore and throw Nemo treats to thank him for his barking in inclement weather.

ariel view of Heron Neck light

Vintage Image 1954
Courtesy US Coast Guard

In the 1940’s local fishermen kept the Coast Guardsmen supplied with lobsters and fish, especially during the winter months when New England storms and high seas would prevent the Coast Guardsmen from making the trip to gather supplies at Vinalhaven.

Heron Neck light was automated in 1982. In 1889, a fire broke out and severely damaged the keeper’s dwelling, sparing the tower.


The Heron Neck Project: Birth of the Maine Lights Program  

In 1993 the Coast Guard handed over the lighthouse to the Island Institute to care for the lighthouse, which in turn leased the property to a private party who restored the house.

Heron Neck light during the restoration process

Heron Neck Light
In Process of Restoration

Note: Photo link above and images in this page were taken near the completion of the restoration process. Apologies for quality.    

To this day, the same private party still owns the lighthouse. It was this project known as the Heron Neck project that inspired the Island Institute out of Rockland to initiate the current Maine Lights Program, where 28 Maine lighthouses were turned over to communities and organizations for care.

The Maine Lights program provided a national and international blueprint for modern day lighthouse conservation. In 2000, Congress passed the Lighthouse Preservation Act used today to help maintain those structures in need of repairs. Today, twenty years later, there are still many lighthouses in desperate need of repairs, as the program has saved countless beacons that would have been destroyed and became simple earmarks of our nautical history. 

Note: Click the "Lighthouse Preservation and the ALF" link at the top of the page for more details from my blog of the Heron Neck Project, the Maine Lights Program, the Lighthouse Preservation Act, and the establishment of the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF).



Places to Visit Nearby:

The lighthouse is off limits to access by the public.

Matinicus Excursions offers lighthouse tours that pass by the lighthouse. Private charters out of Rockland may provide more close up views of the lighthouse. Old Quarry Ocean Adventures provides views of the lighthouse and five others on its lighthouse tours.

Vinalhaven Island lies about 15 miles from the mainland and is the largest of the year round islands in Maine, with overnight accommodations for visitors.

Heron Neck Lighthouse on rocky island



Local Boat Tours

Boat cruises and ferries mentioned below may offer many types of cruises. While some may offer specific lighthouse cruises, some will pass by Heron Neck Lighthouse as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, and other types of excursions.


Matinicus Excursions
Specializing in trips around Matinicus Island, and out to Matinicus Rock Light, including puffin trips to Matinicus Rock, leaving from Matinicus Island.
Journey's End Marina
120 Tillson Avenue
Rockland, Maine
Phone: (207) 691-9030 (cell phone with voice mail)



Isle au Haut Boat Company
Daily mail boat trips to the island of Isle au Haut in the summer season.

They offer a special annual 4-5 hour cruise during Maine's lighthouse weekend in September to see up to six lighthouses on Saturday: Isle au Haut Light, Mark Island Light, Goose Rocks Light, Brown's Head Light, Heron Neck Light, and if weather permits, Saddleback Ledge.

Isle au Haut Boat Services
P.O. Box 709
Stonington, ME 04681
Tel. (207) 367-5193



Scenic Flights

Penobscot Island Air
Chartering a variety of lighthouse viewing flights.
Knox County Regional Airport
Owls Head ME 04854
Phone: (207) 596-7500
Cellular: (207) 542-4944
Fax: (207) 596-6870




My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, published by Schiffer Publishing, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon.

Check it out!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions





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