How much do you know about Delaware Bay’s “traffic lights of the sea”?. The five lighthouses in this article are just a handful of navigational aids scattered about the Delaware Bay. All lighthouses in the United States are operated by the United States Coast Guard. The Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation is now actively working to preserve the Delaware Lighthouses. While traveling across the bay, enjoy the majesty of the sea and the visible history of these lighthouses. Don’t forget to have your cameras ready!
Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse
This lighthouse is at the southernmost tip of Cape May. It was the last Delaware Bay lighthouse to have a keeper on-site! The foundation of this structure changed three times, beginning with a wood pile, moving to a screw pile, and finally to cast-iron concrete. As a woodpile structure, it lasted barely a year before heavy seas tore it down. When it moved to a screw pile in 1850, it was the first of it’s kind in the United States. The screw pile was unable to sustain the moving ice and was fitted with a third-order Fresnel Lens in 1851. The third light was completed in 1914 and was constructed atop a “concrete superstructure” (concrete and wooden piles).
Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse
This lighthouse was built in 1885 as a refuge for rough seas. It is located just inside Cape Henlopen on the southern side of the bay. The construction required over 835,000 tons of stone and cost a little over 2 million to complete. The Delaware Breakwater was soon put to the test not long after it’s construction with the great blizzard of 1888. Luckily the structure remained intact, although there was a constant theme of stress placed on this lighthouse as regular dense fog from Cape Henlopen forced the fog signal to remain constantly blaring. The most recorded hours of operation for the Breakwaters fog light was during the year 1905 with 645 hours. The red outer shell of the structure is easily identifiable from the ferry. In 2004, the Delaware River and Bay Authority partnered with the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouses Foundation to preserve this historic landmark.
Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse
This lighthouse is located on the southeast end of the outer breakwater (directly outside Lewes, DE). The first tower was built in 1908 but was destroyed by a terrible storm not too long after. As of 1926, a new tower (which is still a navigational aid today) was constructed to take its place. The Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation was granted a 20-year lease from the US Coast Guard in 2002 for restoration and this structure.
Miah Maull Shoal Lighthouse
This lighthouse was named in honor of an 18th century sailor who drowned in a shipwreck. The goal of this light was to replace the Cross Ledge Light which was so far away from the shipping channel. It was constructed using cast iron. Originally, the structure was painted brown. It wasn’t until 1940 that Miah Maull was repainted to the red it still remains. It received an even bigger face lift in the 1980s when the United States Coast Guard removed the metal canopy covering the walkway. The original light that shown inside the tower was a fourth order Fresnel lens. It currently sits with a 500mm lens. Although faded, this light is still visible on the north side of the shipping channel on the Delaware Bay.
Cape May Lighthouse
This lighthouse is owned by the state of New Jersey and is located at the tip of Cape May (Cape May Point).Standing 165 feet above sea level on a foundation of surface rock, the lighthouse is visible for passengers aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry. The State of New Jersey leases the structure and grounds to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC).
Want to see it for yourself? Take a relaxing tour through Cape May and visit the lighthouse with one of our MAC tours! For more New Jersey Lighthouse fun, don’t miss the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge October 15 &16th! Visitors are able to visit select museums and lighthouses in the area while raising money to help preserve local landmarks.
Climb aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry today and witness the history of the Delaware Bay yourself! Interested in learning more or want to explore them all? Visit Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers & Friends Association.