Just offshore along Portland harbor’s main shipping channel rests a lighthouse with the sole purpose of helping steer vessels away from a notorious underwater ledge. The Spring Point Ledge is a submerged geographic feature that stretches into the channel from the site of the old Fort Preble. The ledge claimed many ships sailing in and out of Portland’s busy harbor. By the late 1800s, after multiple high-profile wrecks, a light was finally commissioned in 1895 to warn of the dangerous feature lurking below the surface. The spark plug-type lighthouse was completed in 1897. The term “spark plug” is given to this type of lighthouse because the shape resembles a vehicle spark plug.
The light is connected to the shore at the old Fort Preble, now the site of Southern Maine Community College, by a 900-foot granite breakwater that was constructed in 1951. In 1961 the light was upgraded and fully automated. The light was operated and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard until 1998, when ownership was transferred over to the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust. The Coast Guard still operates the navigation function of the light under the agreement.
The light is accessible all year long and is a great place to watch the harbor traffic or take in the views of the Casco Bay islands and forts. On weekends and Tuesdays in the summer months (Memorial Day through Labor Day), volunteers offer tours of the lighthouse. Admission is $5.00 per person, and children must be at least 51 inches tall to enter.
Parking can be found in the circle at the end of Fort Road. Additional parking can be found at different lots on the community college campus.
Be sure to explore the ruins of Fort Preble while there. At the end of the Fort Preble ruins, you can carefully walk through the rocks and rubble to access the north section of Willard Beach.