Ram Island Lighthouse
When planning a trip to Ram Island Lighthouse, first make sure you are headed to the correct Ram Island. The name was a popular one, and there are twenty-one Ram Islands in Maine. The one that is home to Ram Island Lighthouse is located near Boothbay Harbor and formerly served as a place to quarantine rams to control sheep breeding. Ram Island Lighthouse is sometimes confused with Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse, a stone tower in Casco Bay that is visible from Portland Head Lighthouse.
Ram Island Lighthouse before the red brick portion of the tower was painted white
Photograph courtesy U. S. Coast Guard
On March 3, 1837, Congress appropriated $5,000 for a lighthouse on Ram Island, where it could mark the entrance to both Fisherman’s Island Passage, the eastern gateway to Boothbay Harbor, and Damariscotta River. As a first step in investigating the need for this lighthouse, Captain Joseph Smith of the U.S. Navy solicited the opinions of local mariners. In response, twenty-two individuals signed a letter, dated May 15, 1837, that read in part, “We the undersigned…would cheerfully unite in recommending said island as a suitable and proper place for the erection of said light-house. We have for a long time had occasion to pass in and out said river, and think a light-house on said island would be of great service and utility to vessels of every kind coming in or going out of said Damariscotta river, or bound elsewhere.”
Boothbay Harbor is well known as one of the most important harbors upon the whole coast. It is easy of ingress and egress, large, safe in gales from any point of the compass, deep, with good anchorage in any part of it. It is a harbor which all vessels bound east or west, when met by head winds or unfavorable weather, endeavor to make, being a sort of rendezvous for coasters; and more than 300 sail have been seen anchored there at one time. The question, then, is, what works will give to navigation the greatest facilities, and where shall they be placed?
Any one much acquainted with nautical affairs, sailing into [Boothbay] harbor from the west, and from it through the eastern passage, will be struck with the advantages a light at the entrance of the eastern passage would give; and there is no point, in my opinion, so well adapted to this end as Ram island. But when the fact is stated, that from that island there are in view four light-houses, and within the compass of twelve or fifteen miles seven lights, viz: Seguin, Pond island, Hendrick’s head, Burnt island, Pemaquid, Franklin island, and Monhegan, one of two conclusions seems to me inevitable: either that some of these lights are not judiciously located, or that no more are required in that vicinity. I am strongly inclined to the former conclusion. …while the present lights are supported, it would not, I think, be judicious to establish another upon Ram island.