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Ram Island
Ledge Lighthouse

Ram Island Ledge lighthouse

Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Built in 1905

Location:

Marking the entrance to Portland Harbor, on a quarter mile dangerous rock ledge in Casco Bay.

Latitude: 43° 37' 54" N
Longitude: 70° 11' 12" W

 

Historic Stories:

Ram Island Ledge is a rather large reef that lies underwater when high tides would come in, wreaking havoc with mariners. On February 24, 1900, the 440-foot steamer Californian left Portland just before midnight bound for Liverpool, England during a brief rainstorm. Captain John France had let his vessel drift slightly off course, and before he discovered his error, the ship hit the reef straight on, scraping forward and coming to rest on the island. Fortunately, the twenty-one passengers and crew were all safely rescued, and the ship’s cargo was also unloaded. The ship remained stranded on the reef for six weeks before it was finally pulled free. The hull was badly damaged, but it was patched up, and after repairs in Boston, the steamer returned to service.

The incident prompted the need for a lighthouse to be built in this difficult location and in 1902, funds were appropriated for construction. During construction however, shipwrecks would still occur on the reef. On September 22, 1902, the British three-masted schooner Glenrosa wedged itself on the rocks after its captain was misled by Portland Light’s foghorn, and believed his ship was steering down the middle of the channel. The crew was able to stay on the island for the night and row to shore at daybreak, but the ship was a total loss. Less than three months later, the schooner Cora & Lillian suffered the same fate, wedging itself on the reef.

Ram Island Ledge lighthouse was not completed until 1905 due to many delays, with shipwrecks still occurring, as the ledge could only be worked on during daytime at low tide.

Ram Island ledge light tower Construction of the lighthouse itself was considered an engineering feat for the day.

Since the lighthouse was finally built in 1905, there has not been a major shipwreck on the ledges.

William C. Tapley was appointed the first head keeper of Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse and held the position until 1929. During the early years of his tenure he was met with controversy with the local lobstermen, who had petitioned that keepers of lighthouses were taking away part of their livelihood, as they had great locations for easy catch of the tasty crustaceans.

Tapley responded to an inspector that he had too much work to do at the lighthouse to get involved a lobstering, nor did he really want to make any additional income from any catches. lobsterboat passes by Ram Island lighthouse

The inspector who investigated the complaint also found the fisherman made much more income than the keepers, and dismissed the complaints.

With its remote location some keepers found themselves stranded in their quarters inside the lighthouse during poor weather and winter storms. One Assistant Keeper Johansen and another assistant ended up spending 45 days at the lighthouse during rough winter weather. As their food supply ran low, they could only eat oatmeal three times a day to survive until they could get off the ledge to retrieve supplies.

 

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

The best views of the lighthouse from land is from Portland Head Lighthouse inside the 41-acre Fort Williams Park, with plenty of room for hiking, picnicking, and kite flying high above the ocean shoreline in some spots. ship starts to pass between Portland Head light and Ram Island Ledge light

Visitors can also explore the old fort or simply go hiking along the cliff edges. The tower is not open to the public, but visitors can explore the Museum at Portland Head Light at the keeper’s house. There are many boat tours leaving the Portland waterfront where some pass by the lighthouse.

Casco Bay Cruise Lines allows visitors access to some of the nearby popular islands in Casco Bay to relax and recharge, as there are over 200 islands in the region. You may find yourself renting a bike on nearby Peaks Island to explore its local artist community, hiking Long Island’s huge conservation area, or simply hiking along the quiet roads on Chebeaugue Island or Great Diamond Island, among many other islands.

For those who want to learn about lobstering, Lucky Catch Cruises will haul up lobster traps for your enjoyment and passes by Portland Head Light. They also offer nature cruises, and cruises out to Fort Georges and Jewell Island, out in Casco Bay.

 

 

Driving Directions

 

Contact Info:
American Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 565
Rockland, ME 04841

United States Coast Guard
312 Fore Street
Portland, ME

 

 

Local Boat Tours

The boat cruises mentioned below offer many types of cruises including specific lighthouse cruises. Many other boats may pass by Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse during charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, fishing tours, and other types of excursions.

 

Portland Discovery
Specific lighthouse cruises like the "Lighthouse Lover's Cruise", and "Sunset Lighthouse Cruise." They also provide a trolley tour of Portland and a lighthouse cruise on Casco Bay for Portland's lighthouses.
Long Wharf
Portland ME
Phone: (207) 774-0808

 

Casco Bay Lines
Use Bailey Island Cruise to view lighthouses on occasion. Check ahead of time.
56 Commercial Street
Portland, Maine 04112
(207) 774-7871

My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special trips.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and attractions

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