Before the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, shoals, submerged rocks, and shallow waters made the River a dangerous place to navigate.
Sunken Rock Lighthouse off Alexandria Bay marks a dangerous submerged rock just off Alexandria Bay. The lighthouse was built in 1847 by constructing a foundation on top of the sunken rock and converting it into an island. The original brick tower was replaced in 1882 by this iron structure. The light was converted to solar in 1988 and is now owned by the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
Also built in 1847, the first lighthouse at Rock Island was a combination lighthouse and keeper’s residence. ‘Pirate’ Bill Johnston became its first keeper. In 1882, the building was replaced by a conical iron tower erected at the center of the island, and a few yards away, a Victorian shingle-style dwelling. However, the lighthouse was difficult to see through the trees and building obstructions, and resulted in several shipwrecks. In 1903, the tower was moved to the end of a concrete walkway near the edge of the island. In 2013, Rock Island Lighthouse State Park opened the island and its buildings to the public.
Three miles west of Cape Vincent, the light at Tibbett’s Point guards the rocky American shoreline where Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence’s southern shipping. This beacon of safe passage began operating in 1827. In 1854, the first tower was replaced by the present circular one, and a Fresnel lens installed. The lighthouse features the only original working Fresnel lens on Lake Ontario. A fog whistle was added in 1896 and replaced with an air-diaphone in 1927.
For more information:
Rock Island Lighthouse State Park
Rock Island Lighthouse Historical and Memorial Association
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse