Mohawk Island Lighthouse

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Long before Canada became an independent nation from Great Britain, the Mohawk Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1846. This historic structure previously served as a warning to ships of an offshore shoal and as a traffic control point for the Welland Canal. It’s near the village of Dunnville on Mohawk Island, near Rock Point Provincial Park, at the eastern edge of Lake Erie.

The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is a ruined lighthouse that was once a 59-foot (18-meter) tall stone cylindrical, tapered tower with an attached rectangular lighthouse keeper’s apartment. The lighthouse, which was built in 1846, is missing several of its original features, including the lantern, the tower and residence roofs. This lighthouse is one of the Great Lakes’ few remaining lighthouses from its era. Its combination tower and keeper’s residence allude to the nineteenth-century light keeping tradition in remote areas. Despite being abandoned for half a century, the tapered stone tower remains stable and upright, a testament to the high-quality materials used and the skill of John Brown, the Scottish stonemason who erected it.

After serving in WWI, Richard Foster became the lighthouse keeper in 1921, and he and his son James were the lighthouse’s sole tragedies. In 1929, an unattended Aga lamp was put on the lighthouse to be utilized during the winter. The summer light was turned off on December 14, 1932, and the Aga winter light activated by Foster and his 25-year-old son, James. They may have stayed until the next day to ensure the light was working properly. On December 15, Foster and his son James, most likely set off in a tiny skiff for the mile-and-a-half journey to the mainland. They didn’t make it. A search was launched after the missing males were reported to the Ontario Provincial Police. The father and son were not located until December 31, when their frozen bodies were discovered on the beach near Point Abino, despite the efforts of many rescue workers.

The lighthouse on Mohawk Island adds to the area’s marine vibe. The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is well-known to local residents, boaters, and park visitors because of its visibility and placement on an island off Rock Point Provincial Park on Lake Erie’s eastern shore. When vandals came on the island, ascended the tower, and damaged the light, Mohawk Island Lighthouse, also known as Gull Island Lighthouse, was decommissioned in 1969. The lighthouse was then automated.

Mohawk Lighthouse
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Currently, there are no humans living on Mohawk island, and it is primarily populated by birds. The island is an important nesting and loafing location for gulls, terns, and cormorants, as well as a stopover spot for migratory species like Canada geese. To preserve nesting birds, the Canadian government designated the island as Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area in 1977.

Kayakers/Canoeists trek across Lake Erie’s waters to visit the island’s crumbling remnants, and are a favourite photographer’s delight. Wildlife observation, picnics, recreational fishing from shore (no lead sinkers or spears), swimming, and boat landing are all authorized low-impact recreational activities on the island (motorized and non-motorized boats) from August 1 to May 31 (following year). Public access to the island is prohibited during nesting season, which runs from April 1 to July 31.

Because of its historical, architectural, and community significance, the Mohawk Island Lighthouse is designated as a “Heritage Lighthouse”.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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