I always love visiting lighthouses, so I was excited when I finally had a chance to head out to Tibbetts Point Lighthouse in New York’s Thousand Islands region.
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is located just south of Cape Vincent in Jefferson County, New York. It can be found on the United States side of the St. Lawrence River at the point where the river begins at the outflow of Lake Ontario. Amazingly, all of the water in the Great Lakes flows past this point on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The current Tibbets Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and stands 69 feet above the water (a combination of the 59-foot lighthouse and the cliffs it sits atop). It is still used today as an active lighthouse to aid in navigation at the entrance to the St. Lawrence River.
The lighthouse is built of brick which is covered in a stark white stucco. At the top, there is a solid black metal structure that houses the lens. Amazingly, the Fresnel lens that was installed in 1854 is still in use today, one of only a few dozen such lenses that are still active, and the only one on Lake Ontario.
The lighthouse was controlled on-site until 1981 but is now run and maintained remotely from Oswego, New York.
The first lighthouse at this point was constructed in 1827. It was built on a three-acre plot donated by Captain John Tibbetts, who owned 600 acres of land in the area. It was on this land that a lighthouse and keeper’s home were constructed.
Today, this is an incredibly peaceful spot at the end of a beautiful road leading south from the small community of Cape Vincent. It can be found at the following address: 33435 County Rd 6, Cape Vincent, NY 13618.
While access inside the lighthouse isn’t allowed because it is still an active navigation aid, visitors can access the grounds during daylight hours to enjoy the beauty of this incredibly scenic spot. (If you want to climb a lighthouse, make your way to the nearby Rock Island Lighthouse.)
During daylight hours, visitors can walk the ground and explore the exterior of the buildings. Honestly, standing on the cliffs near the lighthouse and overlooking Lake Ontario, it’s hard to imagine that this is a lake and not the ocean itself.
Behind the buildings, you’ll find a small wooden deck with a set of viewing binoculars. Putting 25 cents into the machine, you can get views over the lake. While the lake is wide enough that you can’t see the other side, you can view several distant lights, including the Pigeon Island Lighthouse and the East Charity Shoal Lighthouse, both of which are in Canadian waters.
There are also several benches scattered around the property that are great places to relax and enjoy the views.
On clear days, you can see across the river to Wolfe Island in Canada and the two aforementioned lighthouses without the aid of binoculars. If you’re lucky, you might even see some of the huge cargo ships entering or exiting the St. Lawrence River.
If you visit earlier in the day during the summer (or on spring/fall weekends), you might get lucky and have someone in the visitor center. Sadly, this wasn’t open during my visit, but, from peering in the window, it appears there’s a small museum and gift shop within the space.
It’s worth noting, for those that may be familiar with this site from the past, there was a hostel within the old lighthouse keepers home for many years. Sadly, this facility is no longer operating.
Overall, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is a historic spot that’s also incredibly beautiful. That being said, it’s not the sort of destination that you’d likely want to go far out of your way to see.
Still, my family and I enjoyed our visit after our visit to Clayton, NY, and the drive down to the lighthouse was very scenic. So, if you find yourself in the southwestern part of the Thousand Island region, this is definitely a spot that’s worth a quick stop.
Find out more about visiting on the lighthouse’s official website.