Sharps Island Lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay

A switch up a bit from birds!

One of our recent boat outings was on a beautiful sky blue, fluffy cloud day.  The winds were calm.  That meant a great 20 mile boat-run out of the Choptank River to the Chesapeake Bay.  Maybe we’d be lucky to see a huge ship passing by.

No huge ships sighted, but outside the Choptank River entrance sits Sharps Island Lighthouse.


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Sharps Island Lighthouse


Constructed in 1881, Sharps Island Lighthouse is a cast iron caisson structure filled with concrete, with a brick-lined cast iron tower built on top.  It presently sits in ten feet of water.

This is the third lighthouse at this location.  Sharps Island Lighthouse lost its last resident keepers in 1951, following automation of its light.


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Sharps Island Lighthouse


Sharps Island Lighthouse got its characteristic tilt during the winter of 1976-7 when large ice flows, some piled as high as 40 feet, pushed against the tower and tipped it to the south at about a 15-20 degree angle.


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Sharps Island Lighthouse


Although fundamentally sound at the time, the Fresnel lens was still removed and replaced with a 250mm plastic beacon that flashed a white signal with a red sector.


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Sharps Island Lighthouse


Although still warning boaters & sailors of the dangerous shoals, Sharps Island Lighthouse began rapidly deteriorating with water damage and interior rot.  It became more than what the Coast Guard and Maryland wanted to invest to renovate.

In 2006, Sharps Island Lighthouse was declared excess property and made available to federal & state agencies, non-profits, and historical preservation groups for free.  However, no legitimate entity had an interest.

In 2008, Sharps Island Lighthouse was disposed through an online auction, noting that “the lighthouse was physically inaccessible, the iron plates in the caisson were cracked and corroding, and the wooden floor on the first level was unstable”.  The terms of the sale gave the Coast Guard access to the structure, allowing them to continue maintaining it as an active aid to navigation.

The buyer from Delaware paid $80,000.  Since their purchase, the buyer has done nothing to the lighthouse.

Declared in 2017 to now be too dangerous, the Coast Guard stopped maintaining the lighthouse and its light went out.  Any efforts now to save it will cost the private owner an enormous amount of money.  Today, Sharp’s Island Lighthouse remains on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses.  😦


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Sharps Island Lighthouse with a male Osprey on watch


Oh, did I say a post with no birds??  My bad!!  😉


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Female Osprey on the other side of the lighthouse, incubating on their nest


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There’s the Mrs!


It is so nice of the private owner to provide this nice waterfront property for the Osprey this season!



33 thoughts on “Sharps Island Lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay

  1. I loved this look at the lighthouse, we have many similar ones here in Michigan. Seeing them makes you appreciate the sacrifices that the keepers made to keep mariners safe no matter what the weather was.

    • Thank you, Jerry, I very much agree. It had to be quite fearful at times for the keepers in one during the height of a violent storm. The lighthouse preceding this one broke loose from its screw piles during such a storm in 1881, with the keepers still inside, floating away in it for five miles before being rescued. Frightening to say the least!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Donna. It sounds like the owner bought a white elephant, for sure. Too costly to maintain, too costly to remove, inaccessible, etc, etc — but it still makes for some great pictures, as proven by your series!

    • You’re welcome, Susan, and thank you! Back in the early 2000’s before the Coast Guard sold it, they had gotten an $8,000 quote to paint it. Can you imagine that price for just that today?!! 😲

  3. It’s such a pity to be left to rot away. Why buy it and not try to recondition it? It makes no sense at all.
    I didn’t know about this lighthouse or heard of it before. Excellent post my friend, and you’ve illustrated it perfectly. Thank you! 🙂

  4. I see a lonely kind of beauty in the first photo. Then I thought I saw a bird perched on the right side.. Yes, something needs to be done but that rusty exterior sure has great texture.Either someone will haul it into land, or they will just let it sink eventually. Glad the Osprey are finding a good use for it-we could learn from them.

    • It just sits out there all by itself, leaning over like the Tower of Pisa…..I am glad the Osprey have use of it. And I love that rusty exterior myself, it makes for great photo ops!

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