The Cape St. George Lighthouse and the Crooked River Lighthouse reflect the area’s maritime history and commitment to preserving a unique coastal heritage.
Franklin County lighthouses are beacons to mariners and history buffs. Franklin County boasts two restored lighthouses. The first is located on St. George Island. The second is located at Carrabelle Beach. Each tells a tale of coastal living in Franklin County more than 100 years ago and each is worth visiting.
Cape St. George Light
The Cape St. George Light, which stands at the center of St. George Island, is the fourth reconstruction of the historic lighthouse that was originally built on what is now Little St. George Island. The first lighthouse was erected in 1833 near West Pass but was difficult for maritime traffic approaching from the east to see. After suffering storm damage it was ultimately dismantled and its bricks were used in the construction of a new tower, completed in 1848 at Cape St. George. The second lighthouse fell during a hurricane in 1851. The third lighthouse was completed in 1852, again using materials from its predecessor, but positioned further inland from the water’s edge. For 153 years the Cape St. George Light valiantly served mariners well, but beach erosion ultimately caused its collapse on October 21, 2005. In a dramatic team effort involving private contractors, local volunteers, and government funding, the pieces of the Light were salvaged and moved to a storage site on the mainland. The St. George Lighthouse Association acquired the 1852 plans from the National Archives and led the effort to reconstruct the lighthouse on St. George Island. Volunteers cleaned old mortar off the salvaged bricks, and more than 22,000 original bricks were used in the rebuilding effort. Original granite door jambs and window lintels were re-installed in the reconstructed lighthouse. The iron lantern room, twisted beyond hope in the fall, was reforged using the original pieces as patterns. With extensive community support and public and private funding, the Cape St. George Light was successfully rebuilt and opened to the public on December 1, 2008. A replica of the original Lighthouse Keeper’s House, built next to the lighthouse, features a museum and gift shop. Museum exhibits include the lighthouse history and artifacts. An audio-visual “interactive archive” provides visitors access to videos, photographs and documents relating to the lighthouse.
Crooked River Lighthouse
For nearly 100 years the Crooked River Lighthouse stood as a guiding light for ships, and fishermen navigating the treacherous pass between Dog and St. George Islands. Today the lighthouse and keepers’ house museum stand on the mainland where the light was originally built in 1895, replacing the three short-lived beacons destroyed by hurricanes on Dog Island. The 103 foot iron and steel structure was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1995 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Carrabelle Lighthouse Association and the City of Carrabelle obtained ownership of the landmark just weeks before being auctioned and created a public park surrounding it. Public and private financial support enabled the restoration of the structure to be completed in 2007. Nestled in a north Florida forest habitat the lighthouse beams nightly, with its acrylic replica of it’s original 4th order Fresnel lens. The park picnic area features a 70 foot wooden pirate ship providing hours of fun and fantasy for children. Grant funding also helped the CLA to construct a replica of the Crooked River Lighthouse Keeper’s House which was patterned after the original 1895 plans. Completed in 2009, the Keeper’s House serves as a museum, gift shop and headquarters for the CLA. Exhibits include an historical setting of the early 1900s, examples of beacons and the methods of constructing a skeletal tower lighthouse. Everyday life objects in the Keeper’s Room include original clocks, a barometer, a glass fire grenade, pages from the keeper’s watch book, currency and much more. Visitors can look through replica Sears’ catalogues for a perspective on cost of living during the past century. Group educational tours are welcomed and new science-based programs are being developed.
Lighthouses Offer Full Moon Climbs
Both the St. George Lighthouse and Crooked River Lighthouse host special climbs each month on full moon evenings. Visitors are able to climb the 92 stairs of the Cape St. George Light to see breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico, Apalachicola Bay, and St. George Sound. The Crooked River Lighthouse features a similar full moon climb and often features free movies at the lighthouse park.