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Little River Lighthouse

Little River lighthouse

Cutler, Maine
Built in 1847


The lighthouse sits atop a ledge on Little River Island positioned near the entrance to Cutler Harbor. Lighthouse and grounds are closed to the public.

Latitude: 44° 39' 03" N
Longitude: 67° 11' 32" W


Historic Stories:

As shipbuilding grew in the area, and with increasing shipping trades for fish and lobster, the Little River lighthouse was built in 1847. early image of Little River lighthouse

Early Little River Light (1847)
Courtesy US Coast Guard

As Cutler became a popular summer resort, passenger steamers wanted to add Little River Harbor as a stopping place.

early 1876 image of Little River lighthouse

Early Little River Light (1876)
Courtesy US Coast Guard
Little River lighthouse was rebuilt in 1876. However, these same passenger steamers insisted that a more powerful steam fog signal be added to the station, believing the current fog bell was not safe.

Shipwrecks still occured for years near the beacon. Keeper Lucius Davis provided food and shelter for a schooner’s crew after it beached near the lighthouse on November 21, 1875, and he helped out a badly frostbitten crew that had wrecked on January 28, 1881. The crew of a fishing schooner barely survived in December 1884, after being caught in a gale. 

On July 21, 1889, the crew of the Spanish steamer Eduardo didn’t hear either Little River’s fog bell or a nearby whistling-buoy and struck the island at low tide on July 21, 1889 during a dense fog. The crewmembers survived but the ship was a total loss.

The Lighthouse Board agreed and concluded that the wreck of the Eduardo and others would not have occurred if a stronger steam driven fog signal had been installed. What is strange is that the board recommended a stronger fog signal for each year for over 15 years, but one was never built at the station.

In December of 1897, the schooner Julia A Warr left Calais Maine for Fall River, Massachusetts. Presumably during the same time a winter storm had struck the coast, and it is believed the vessel got caught in the storm and sank with all six of her crew aboard. During the same time two bodies were found washed ashore near Little River Lighthouse whom many believe were from the ill-fated schooner, and were buried near the boathouse. Plans are being made to create a marker and fence around the site.

One of the Keepers in the early 1900’s, Neil Corbet, was quite a fiddler and would play on some Saturday nights at local dances. He tended Little River Lighthouse with his family for 17 years.

In 1975, a skeletal tower replaced the lighthouse tower. In 2000, the American Lighthouse Foundation took over some of the restoration efforts of the lighthouse and surrounding structures with the help of the Coast Guard, and in 2001 the lighthouse was relit amongst much fanfare that had not been seen in the town before.

Efforts are still being made for continued restoration as funding continues. To help with fund raising, visitors can reserve to stay overnight at the lighthouse.



Places to Visit Nearby:

Cutler is truly a down east fishing community, the area considered to be one of the most picturesque harbors, and is the best place from which to sail to Machias Seal Island and Grand Manan Island, located six miles offshore.

It still has an active fishing fleet in its picturesque quiet harbor and is the last harbor on the Maine coast before entering Canada. fishing boats in Cutler Harbor

Cutler Harbor

The Cross Island National Refuge consists of six offshore islands in Cutler to by explored by personal boat or kayak. You'll find all kinds of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, bald eagles, ospreys, and song birds. The Cross and Scotch Islands are open year round from sunrise to sunset. Mink, Inner and Outer Double Head Shots, and Old Man Islands are open during daylight hours from September 1 to March 31 and closed during the nesting season from April 1 to August 31.

Friends of Little River Lighthouse offer a few open house tours of the lighthouse in the summer, and you can stay overnight at the lighthouse. Little River lighthouse view from boat tour

The Bold Coast Charter Company passes by Little River Lighthouse heading to Machias Seal Island.

puffins When you take the Bold Coast trip, you will be taken to Machias Seal Island, which is the largest puffin colony on the coast, and be allowed to board the island to view puffin birds up close.

On the island you'll also find Machias Seal Island Lighthouse, which is technically a Canadian lighthouse, it is not automated, and has the only full time keepers left to attend this light in all the maritimes.

You also get to meet these great folk as well while you're on the island. Bold Coast can also set up a charter to land on Little River Island to tour the lighthouse and keeper's dwelling.

The reason for Canada to still allow these keepers to man the light is due to a long time boundary dispute between the US and Canada.

The World Court decided that as long as Canada allowed keepers to man Machias Seal Island Lighthouse, the US would have to abide by a treaty of boundaries signed long ago.
Machias Seal Island light, Canada

Machias Seal Island Light



Contact Info:
Friends of Little River Lighthouse

c/o American Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 565
Rockland, ME 04841

Phone (877) 276-4682


Directions to Cutler Harbor



Local Boat Tour

Bold Coast Charter Company
Puffin trips heading to Machias Seal Island pass by Little River Lighthouse. Visitors can view and photograph these endangered birds up close inside small shacks called blinds. Special tours available for boat trips to land on the island of Little River Light. If requested, possible arrangements can be made to tour the interior of the lighthouse and the keeper's home.

Contact: Captain Andrew Patterson
P. O. Box 364
Cutler, Maine 04626
Phone: (207) 259-4484


My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses in these northern states, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special vacation.

Take a look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions





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