Former Potomac River Lighthouses

and current small beacons (Maryland)


This list contains former lighthouses once located in the Potomac River. Since Maryland's border lies only several feet off Virginia's shoreline along the Potomac, all of these lighthouses were actually in Maryland. But they are important for boats travelling to and from Virginia. This list also mentions existing automated beacons, which replaced the lighthouses.

Ragged Point | Cobb Point Bar | Blakistone Island | Lower Cedar Point
Mathias Point Shoal | Upper Cedar Point | Maryland Point | Fort Washington


Ragged Point Lighthouse (1910 - 1962)
This was the last lighthouse built in the Chesapeake Bay area (excluding the moving of Cherrystone Bar to Choptank River). It was located near the Virginia shore at Coles Point in Westmoreland County. Piney Point Lighthouse in Maryland is nearby, on the opposite side of the river. The lighthouse was completed on March 15, 1910, and marks a shoal which reaches to the shore. It was a hexagonal screwpile type. The light had a fourth-order lens. Ironically, it was one of the first to be dismantled.
The current light is a 6-second flashing white light on a 44-foot tower built on the original foundation.
Best View from shore: from the marina at Ragged Point, or through private property at nearby Coles Point, both in Virginia.

Cobb Point Bar Lighthouse (1889 - 1940)
Also known as Cobb Island Bar, it was once located off Cobb Island at the entrance to the Wicomico River in Maryland. It was a square wooden house on five iron screwpiles. The light was lit on December 25, 1889. It had a fourth-order lens and displayed a fixed white light. The house had caught fire in 1939 and was dismantled in 1940 but a small 18-foot automatic beacon was erected on the original foundation.
The current beacon serves as green marker #1W and has a 4-second flashing light. On nautical charts, this area is called "Lighthouse Lumps".
Best View from shore: across private property on Cobb Island in Maryland.

Blakistone Island Lighthouse (1851 - 1932 / 1956)
Once located on Blakistone (Blackston) Island, aka St. Clement's Island, only 5 miles downriver from Cobb Point Bar light. It was built in 1851 and was a two-story brick house with a light on the roof. Unfortunately, it was built too close to the beach, so bulkheading had to be provided. Confederate raiders put the light out of commission in May, 1864, but it was quickly repaired and relit several days later. The lighthouse remained under military protection, including a patrolling gunboat, until the end of the Civil War. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1932. On July 16, 1956, it caught fire, believed by many to have been caused by a stray artillery round fired from the Navy's weapons range at Dahlgren, Virginia. The Navy detonated what was left of the structure. The cause of the fire was never determined. There is a large cross erected near the site in commemoration of Leonard Calvert's (Lord Baltimore's brother) landing in 1634.

Lower Cedar Point Lighthouse (1867 - 1893, 1896 - 1951)
A 72-ton lightship was placed here in 1837, but Confederates boarded and burned it in 1861. A second lightship served here beginning in 1864. A square screwpile lighthouse was built in 1867, and was destroyed by fire on Christmas of 1893. It wasn't rebuilt until September 5, 1896. The house was dismantled in 1951, and a light on a skeleton tower was built on the same foundation. The new light stands at 38-feet, which is the height of the original lens. The location of this light is in the middle of the river downstream from the Potomac River Bridge (US 301) near Dahlgren, VA, in King George County.
The current beacon serves as green marker #33 and has a 2-second flash. Near here is another beacon, located at the tip of Cedar Point Bar. It is a 29-foot 4-second flashing red marker #30.
Best Views from shore: from Cedar Beach at Morgantown MD, and from the US 301 bridge, and from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Virginia.

Mathias Point Shoal Lighthouse (1876 - 1963)
Once located just upriver from Dahlgren, VA, in King George County, close to the Virginia shore. The river takes a tortuous turn here and the Navy steamer Frolic became grounded here in 1873. In 1876 the unusually designed hexagonal lighthouse was built, and it had a fifth-order lens. It has been described as resembling a wedding cake. It became automated in 1951. The house was dismantled in 1963.
The current light is a steel tower on the original screwpile supports and displays a 44-foot high 6-second flashing green light.
Best View from shore: from the Mt. Bethel Recreation Center at Mathias Point in Virginia.

[Mathias Point]

Upper Cedar Point Lighthouse (1867 - 1963)
Once located 2 miles upriver from Mathias Point light. A 72-ton lightship was originaly placed here in 1821. Three other lightships also served here before the lighthouse was constructed. One of the ships later served at Willoughby Spit, York Spit and Wolf Trap stations. Another served at the Lower Cedar Point station. A square screwpile lighthouse was built on July 20, 1867. For several years in the 1870s, the keepers were Negroes. It is the only known instance of Negroes serving under the Lighthouse Board. After Mathias Point Shoal light was built nearby in 1876, this light was discontinued. But after complaints, it was relit in 1882, and served until 1963. It was then dismantled.
The current light was installed on the original foundation. It serves as red marker #8 with a 6-second flashing light.
Best View from shore: It is not viewable from shore, unless you are one of the few who have clearance to enter the Blossom Point military installation in Maryland.

Maryland Point Lighthouse (1892 - 1963)
This lighthouse was located in the middle of the river halfway between Fairview Beach, VA, and Caledon Natural Area State Park in King George County. It was a small white 42-foot high hexagonal screwpile lighthouse, and was commissioned on December 15, 1892. The cottage was assembled at the Lazaretto Depot in Maryland. The light had a fourth-order lens. It was automated in 1954. The cottage was disassembled and transported to the Portsmouth Depot in 1963.
The current light is a 42-foot high automated 6-second flashing light on the original foundation. The light has red and white sectors.
Best View from shore: from Wellington Beach, Maryland.

Fort Washington Lighthouse (1870 - 1901, 1901 - present)
For a full account, go to the Ft. Washington page. The current structure is the bell tower from the former lighthouse. It now serves primarily as red marker #80. It is 28-feet high and has a 6-second flashing red light, in addition to the bell.

5/18/99


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