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Owls Head Lighthouse

Owls Head lighthouse

Owls Head, Maine
Built in 1826


Marking the entrance to Rockland Harbor from Lighthouse Road off Route 73.

Latitude: 44° 05' 33" N
Longitude: 69° 02' 39" W


Historic Stories:

In early times the name of the "Owls Head" came from the local Indians. Some mariner's claim they can make out the figure viewing from the water.

The growing trade of lime mined in Rockland and nearby Thomaston led to the need for Owls Head lighthouse at the entrance to Rockland Harbor.

Built in 1826, authorized by President John Quincy Adams, with Isaac Sterns as its first Keeper, it has been the site of many shipwrecks.

vintage image ariel view of Owls Head lighthouse
Vintage Image
Courtesy US Coast Guard
Its tower, though only 20 feet tall is situated over a high cliff making it over 100 feet above water.

November 9, 1844, the brig Maine sailed out of Rockland Harbor with nine crewman aboard, and never returned. Three years later, a different ship appeared in Rockland Harbor with a mahogany chest, a ship’s atlas, and a navigation book, which they had found in abandoned ship. The locals determined the items all belonged to the Maine. The crew were held for questioning and had all collaborated in the same story that three Portuguese sailors, believed to be pirates, had left the items behind when they jumped ship in Vera Cruz to avoid capture.

cliffs leading up to Owls Head lighthouse


The Frozen Lovers

One of the most bizarre of rescues occurred during the blizzard of December 22, 1850 when a schooner with three aboard became wedged against two ledges near Owls Head. The deckhand barely made it ashore at dawn to get help and was rescued by Keeper Henry Achorn. Achorn organized a rescue party and found a man and woman completely encased in ice in a lover's embrace.

The pair were meticulously cut out of the ice and were brought back to the keeper's dwelling although everyone feared they had frozen to death. Owls head light and Keeper's House after snowstorm

Snow Covered Owls Head Light
And Keepers Dwelling

They attempted to thaw out the pair and miraculously after a number of hours the couple regained consciousness and survived to be married later in June.

Owls Head Harbor after snowstorm with lobster boats still moored


Clara Emory Maddocks, became a widow when her husband, Keeper Joseph Maddocks, passed away suddenly. Although not appointed as a keeper, she was involved in the dutes of maintaining the light for many years afterwards, and was directly involved in many rescues during New England storms, including rescuing her own cow that fell off the cliff.


Spot the Rescue "Lighthouse Dog"

In the 1930's, Keeper Augustus Hamer had a special dog named Spot who would ring the fog bell by tugging on the rope to the bell with its teeth every time it heard a ships whistle. When the Captain of the boat returned the fog signal, Spot happily would run down to the water and bark until the boat was out of earshot.

One wintry stormy night Spot heard the whistle of the lost Matinicus mail boat, which was caught in the storm trying to get home. snow covered Owls head light

Lunging over the snowdrifts Spot couldn't find the rope so he barked constantly until the Captain was finally able to send the signal back that he had heard the dog. Spot is credited with saving the Captain that night and is buried near the fog bell he loved.

Note: To find more specific details about each of the famous stories mentioned above, select either the "Lighthouse Dog" Blog or "Rescue of Frozen Lovers" Blog link at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories section.

snow covered Owls Head light


In 2012, the American Lighthouse Foundation licensed the keeper’s dwelling at Owls Head light from the Coast Guard, to serve as headquarters for the organization, which cares for more than twenty lighthouses throughout New England. They also provide tours during the summer season.

The organization was established as part of the Maine Lights Program and Lighthouse Preservation Act to establish lighthouse conservation nationwide and to act as a blueprint for global lighthouse conservation.



Places to Visit Nearby:

The lighthouse is located within Owls Head Light State Park. The lighthouse grounds are open to the public. Visitors can also climb the stairway to the lighthouse atop the rocky cliff hill.

This lighthouse is situated atop of spectacular cliffs with wonderful views of Rockland Harbor and the coastline. Owls Head lighthouse above cliffs

You can enjoy picnicking at Lighthouse Park and walk along some of the trails along the cliffs and shoreline. Wear good tread sneakers or boots as this area can be quite slippery.

You'll also find that the keeper's house is now headquarters for the American Lighthouse Foundation, and they provide tours at times.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum, which exhibits antique autos and planes, is nearby off Route 73.

You can also explore works of national and local artists at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. Its Wyeth Center features local works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth, whose family members own Tenants Harbor Lighthouse.

The lighthouse can be viewed by water from the Rockland – Vinalhaven ferry, or from various excursion boats leaving Rockland Harbor. Penobscot Island Air offers aerial tours out of Owls Head village.

dOwls Head lighthouse above cliffs water view

For those who want the true Maine flavor, there is the annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland with the world’s largest lobster pot, cooking tens of thousands of pounds of lobster around the first week of August.

In Rockland, visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum, one of the most famous lighthouse museums in the world. fresnel lenses at the Maine Lighthouse Museum

Fresnel Lenses at
Maine Lighthouse Museum

For sailing enthusiasts, A Morning in Maine provides daily two-hour nature and historic public sails around the harbor aboard a 55-foot ketch, and there are sunset sails, Monroe Island, Blues Festival, and Science Under event sails as well.




Contact Info:
Owls Head Light State Park
Owls Head, Maine 04854
Phone: (207) 941-4014

Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights
P.O. Box 741
Rockland, ME 04841
Tel. (207) 594-4174

On the Web:

United States Coast Guard
54 Tillson Avenue
Rockland, Maine


Local Boat Tours and Windjammer Cruises

This region of the Penobscot has some of the best sailing conditions and is very popular for boaters and sailing vessels alike. Boat cruises and ferries mentioned below offer many types of cruises. While some may offer specific lighthouse cruises, some may pass by Owls Head Lighthouse during sailing charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, while ferrying passengers, fishing tours and other types of excursions. Weather is also a major factor in New England, so schooner windjammer cruises are dependent on sailing conditions that determine their route on a particular day, and may not pass by selected lighthouses, but the excitement and adventure they provide is well worth the trip. Enjoy!

Maine State Ferry Service
Ferry to Matinicus Island, Vinalhaven, and Northhaven. Ferry passes by the lighthouse out of Rockland Harbor.
P.O. Box 645
517A Main Street
Rockland, Maine 04841-0645
Phone:. (207) 596-2202


Camden Harbor Cruises
Provides 1-hour Lighthouse Lobster Tour from Camden, and a 3-hour Sunday Lighthouse Cruise aboard a classic wooden motor vessel, the Lively Lady.

16 Camden Public Landing,
Box 1315, Camden, ME 04843
Phone: (207) 236-6672


Sailing on a windjammer or schooner sailing

Wndjammer Sailing Out of Rockland

Weather is always a major factor in New England, as schooner windjammer cruises are dependent on sailing conditions that determine their daily route. Windjammers that leave out of Rockland are listed below.

Schooner Heritage
The 145-foot Heritage offers 3-day to 6-day sails without a specific itinerary, but always passes by lighthouses and its captains are maritime historians.
P.O. Box 482, 5 Achorn Street, Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 594-8007 or (800) 648-4544


Schooner Grace Bailey
This 2-masted 123-foot lumber carrier was built in Long Island, New York, in 1882. Three to six-day sails for various events, including participating in schooner races or regattas, lots of music, and sometimes island stopovers.

P.O. Box 1401, Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 691-9521


Schooner J. & E. Riggin
Built in 1927, this 120-foot two-masted schooner has special 3 and 4 day “Lighthouses and Lobsters” cruises.
136 Holmes Street, Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (800) 869-0604


Schooner American Eagle
Sails on cruises of varying lengths, from two to nine days which include lighthouses and wildlife as part of every trip.
P.O. Box 482, 11 Front Street, Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 594-8007 or (800) 648-4544


Schooner Stephen Taber and Schooner Bowditch
Classic 140-year old schooner sails on one and multiple day cruises which include a “Lighthouse and Photography Cruise” featuring photography instruction with a local artist.  
Windjammer Wharf
P.O. Box 1050, Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 594-4723 or (800) 999-7352



Scenic Flights

Penobscot Island Air
Chartering a variety of lighthouse viewing flights.
Knox County Regional Airport
Owls Head ME 04854
Phone: (207) 596-7500
Cellular: (207) 542-4944
Fax: (207) 596-6870


Books to Explore

Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England:
New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont

This 300-page book (with over 360 images) provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses along the northern New England coast, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special vacation. You'll also find a special section for listings of windjammer sailing cruises in the region.

In the book, you'll also find the stories mentioned above, and yes, the keeper building at the lighthouse is haunted. There is also a special haunted lighthouses section to review the story.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions



book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

To order a signed paperback copy:

Available in paperback, hardcover, and as an eBook for all devices.

my ebook on apple books

The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships:
Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England

In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants of sail measured longer than a football field!

This self-published book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships. These true stories include competitions, accidents, battling destructive storms, acts of heroism, and their final voyages.




New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues & Other Tales

This image-rich book contains over 50 stories of famous shipwrecks and rescues around New England lighthouses, and also tales of hauntings.

There are more details and imagery provided in the story of Spot rescuing the mailboat in a snowstorm and about the "frozen lovers".

You'll find this book and my lighthouse tourism books from the publisher Schiffer Books, or in many fine bookstores.



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