The Crooked River Lighthouse on the Highway 98 History Trail
As Tropical Storm Laura threatens the Gulf of Mexico, we are reminded of the importance of lighthouses along the Gulf Coast. Lighthouses have been used for more than 2,000 years to be the guiding light in storms around the world. Did you know that the Pharos of Alexandria, built in ~270 BC in ancient Egypt, is believed to be the first lighthouse ever built? It’s also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and is believed to be the tallest structure ever built up to that point in history. The ancient Egyptians believed in the importance of the lighthouse!
The Florida Gulf Coast is littered with lighthouses. According to National Geographic, only 30 of the 65 lighthouses remain standing along the Florida coastline, including the Crooked River Lighthouse. If you missed our previous blogs on the St. George Island lighthouse – the other famous lighthouse along the Forgotten Coast – you can check them out here and here. The Crooked River Lighthouse is another great piece of history near St. George Island.
The Crooked River Lighthouse is located at 1975 Highway 98 in Carabelle. We call this a stop on the “Highway 98 History Trail” because you can also visit the Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum just a half-mile east of the lighthouse. For more details on our most recent visit to Camp Gordon Johnston check out this blog. Both the Crooked River Lighthouse and Camp Gordon Johnston are full of history and are great for kids.
The Crooked River Lighthouse was lit for the first time on October 28, 1895. The lighthouse guided timber ships as well as fishermen and oystermen through the pass between Dog Island and St. George Island. The Carrabelle Light, as it is also called, was built to replace the Dog Island Light that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1875. For more details on the history of the lighthouse, check out the history page on their website.
Once you arrive at the lighthouse, there is a small building that shares a lot of the history of the area, the lighthouse itself and the lighthouse keepers that maintained the Crooked River Lighthouse. Our son, Brody, liked standing next to the model inside of the keeper’s house museum.
Inside the museum you’ll find a historical setting of the early 1900s and what it would have looked like for the earliest lighthouse keepers. In the museum you’ll find drawings of the lighthouse, the keeper’s watch book, the original clock and more.
Keepers of the lighthouse faced a very important and often dangerous job. Without a working light, vessels would not be able to safely make it to their destination and sometimes a broken lighthouse even resulted in shipwrecks. The lighthouse keepers were often involved in dangerous rescues and would have to brave dangerous storms (like tropical storm Laura). The lighthouse keeper had to maintain the light by thoroughly cleaning it and maintaining it to make sure it operated properly. Without the keeper, the lighthouse is just a tower.
No trip to a lighthouse is complete without climbing to the top. The lighthouse is open for climbs Wednesday-Sunday and closes at 5:00 pm each day (weather permitting). On Wednesday-Friday it opens at 11:00 am, Saturday it opens at 9:00 am and Sunday it opens at 1:00 pm. The Keeper’s House Museum also has the same hours. Make sure you’re ready to climb the 138-step spiral staircase though. On a hot day it can be tough!
You can purchase a ticket to climb the lighthouse inside the museum. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for kids (7 and older). Kids 6 and under get in free, but they must be at least 44 inches tall to climb the lighthouse.
Once you climb the winding stairs of the lighthouse and get to the top, the views are spectacular. You see great views of Dog Island, St. George Island and Tate’s Hell State Forest (for more information on the history of Tate’s Hell, click here). Make sure you go on a clear day, and you’ll be able to see for many, many miles!
The Crooked River Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1995 and the US Coast Guard planned to decommission and auction the lighthouse. Thankfully, the Crooked River Lighthouse Association was formed in 1999 to save the lighthouse and the lighthouse was deeded over to the City of Carrabelle in 2000. The Lighthouse was saved and restored by members of the CLA and now we can all enjoy its history.
Make sure you check out this piece of Forgotten Coast history on your next trip to St. George Island. Have you checked out the Crooked River Lighthouse on a recent St. George Island beach vacation? Let us know about it in the comments below.