By Barbara Reina
It has inspired adventure novels and poems. A symbol of strength, shelter and romance, the lighthouse has served as the guiding light to safe passage for many a ship large and small.
You don’t have to be a dreamy-eyed poet or travel back in time to the early 1900’s for a glimpse of lighthouse living. The Saugerties Lighthouse, located at 168 Lighthouse Drive in Saugerties, NY, attracts day-trippers and B&B guests year round to experience riparian life on the Hudson River.
The scenic half-mile trail leading to the lighthouse runs parallel to expansive river vistas. It is a peninsula of sandy flats and wooden boardwalks surrounded by 17 acres of tidal wetland flats, wooded grounds and almost 100 species of flora.
The tall grass of the wetlands seems to hide the lighthouse from view until you reach your destination. Birders, photographers, couples and families traverse the trail year round. The trail forks to a beachside picnic area on the Hudson.
Lighthouse Keeper Patrick Landewe lives at the lighthouse and runs the B&B with his wife and two year-old son. “There’s ample living space with close proximity to town. I’m not a lonely keeper on an island,” Landewe added.
The Saugerties Lighthouse is unique in its accessibility by both land and water. “Other lighthouses along this part of the Hudson River are isolated, requiring a boat to get to them,” Landewe said.
Although the trail to the lighthouse is maintained, high tides can cause marshy, freshwater sections of the path to turn murky. “We try to time check-in to avoid high tide,” Landewe said. “We coach guests on the best time to go to town,” he added.
Overnight guests can avail themselves to the tower atop the lighthouse for a panoramic view of the Hudson River and Esopus Creek. The walk up to the tower from inside the house is through the attic, then straight up a sturdy ladder to the circular tower lantern room.
The two second-floor bedrooms, each with a double bed, offer different views of the river: one south and down the Hudson River while the other looks out east onto the river. Guests share the first-floor bathroom, museum room, parlor and antique kitchen.
River breezes set the rhythm for the sun’s rays to dance on the waves in spring, summer and fall. Quiet winter scenes are awakened by the sound of ice moving and breaking along the river.
“I imagine all Lighthouse Keepers used to live in considerable fear of ice floes,” Landewe commented.
In 1835, the sharp, relentless cutting pressure of river ice chipped away at the original foundation made of wood cribbing and stone fill.
In 1869, a new foundation made of some four-ton massive limestone blocks along with a comparatively roomier lighthouse were erected.
By the mid 1950’s, the Coast Guard automated the light, making light keepers obsolete. The lighthouse was then subject to decades of neglect, disrepair decay and closure.
In 1979, efforts were realized to include the lighthouse on the National Registry of Historic Places.
By the mid-1980’s the Coast Guard relinquished jurisdiction over the lighthouse to the state which sold it along with the adjacent wetlands to the newly formed Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy for $1.
Officially recommissioned in 1990, the Saugerties Lighthouse, equipped with a solar-powered beacon, stands as an aid to navigation and unique source of riparian entertainment.
For more information, visit: http://www.saugertieslighthouse.com/
(Photographs by Barbara Reina)