Ten lighthouses. Two days. Are you up for the challenge?
This September, the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge will open the doors to lighthouses of all shapes and sizes — including one lightship — as hundreds of people flock to remember and explore maritime heritage on the Chesapeake Bay.
"There's an allure to lighthouses, a beauty and mystique," said Challenge coordinator Karen Rosage of the U.S. Lighthouse Society's Chesapeake Chapter. "And they sit at some of the most scenic spots in the state."
You won't need a boat to see them. The Challenge is a driving tour, sweeping down (or up) both sides of the Bay on the weekend of Sept. 20–21. You can start or end your tour at any point, visiting as few or as many lighthouses as you like. Each stop includes a free Lighthouse Challenge souvenir, but only those who reach the 10 mandatory stops will receive a special souvenir that says, "I've Seen the Lights!"
"Most importantly, you get the bragging rights," Rosage said.
The Challenge is a great way to experience the variety of Chesapeake lighthouses and landscapes. You'll see the elegant white tower of Concord Point Lighthouse in the Bayside town of Havre de Grace, the hefty lightship Chesapeake in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and the cottage-style, screwpile lighthouses in Solomons and St. Michaels.
The Fort Washington lighthouse is a popular fishing spot with a massive historic fort on one side and a view of the Washington skyline on the other. Point Lookout, at the mouth of the Potomac, is said to be haunted.
To see the Blackistone Lighthouse Replica in Southern Maryland, you'll take a short boat ride from the mainland museum to the island where English settlers first landed in Maryland in 1634.
Rosage said logistics for a similar event in Virginia are difficult because its lighthouses are farther apart and many stand on military bases. This year's Challenge includes the Jones Point lighthouse in Alexandria, VA, as a bonus stop.
The Maryland Lighthouse Challenge started in 2009 as a way to keep Chesapeake lighthouses in the public's eye. Lighthouses have long been critical for navigating the Bay's shallow waters, but modern technology has put many out of business. Still, these iconic structures have leagues of devoted fans. One past Lighthouse Challenge drew families, young people and retirees from 27
different states, with most coming from Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. So far, the eldest participant has been a 92-year-old woman and the youngest was about 3 months old.
"We have the Challenge faithful who make the trip every year, and others who drop in because they're curious," Rosage said. "To us, any lighthouse visit is time well spent."
Lighthouses on the 2013 Maryland Challenge
Choptank River Lighthouse Replica (Cambridge)
Concord Point (Havre de Grace)
Cove Point (Solomons)
Drum Point (Solomons)
Fort Washington (Fort Washington Park)
Hooper Strait (St. Michaels)
Lightship Chesapeake (Pier III Baltimore Inner Harbor)
Piney Point (Piney Point)
Point Lookout (Scotland)
Seven Foot Knoll (Pier V, Baltimore Inner Harbor)
Blackistone Lighthouse Replica (St. Clement's Island)
Jones Point (Alexandria, VA)
Sandy Point Shoal (offshore lighthouse visible from Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis)
Maryland Lighthouse Challenge: Sept.21–22
Twelve lighthouses and one lightship will be open to the public from
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days of the Lighthouse Challenge. Collect a free souvenir at each lighthouse you visit — and a special souvenir if you make the 10 required stops during the two-day challenge.
If you'd like a jump-start on the journey, the Hooper Strait Lighthouse and Choptank River Lighthouse on the Eastern Shore will offer an "early bird special" with visiting hours on Friday.
Three bonus stops offer Challenge souvenirs but don't count toward completing the challenge. They include the Blackistone Lighthouse Replica (St. Clement's Island), Jones Point (near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, VA), and Sandy Point Shoal (visible from Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis).
Entrance is free at most locations, although small fees for park entrances or shuttles may apply.
For details and driving directions, visit the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society at www.cheslights.org or call event chair Karen Rosage at 410-437-0741.
From the Water
Extend your Challenge weekend with an Eastern Shore boat cruise that offers views of six more Chesapeake lighthouses: Hoopers Island, Holland Island Bar, Solomon's Lump, Smith Point, Point Lookout and Point No Point.
The full-day cruise leaves from Hoopers Island (40 miles south of Cambridge, MD) on Sept. 19, Sept. 20 and Sept. 23. The cost is $125 per person, including lunch on Smith Island. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Hooper Island Lighthouse restoration. Seats are limited, so sign up early.
For details and reservations, call Sawyer Fishing Charters & Chesapeake Bay Tours at 410-397-3743 or visit www.sawyercharters.com.