Guard Island, Tongass Narrows

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Guard Island, Tongass Narrows

by | May 13, 2020

Guard Islands are at the northern entrance to Tongass Narrows, between Clarence Strait and Behm Canal, and are part of an island chain extending northwest from Vallenar Point at the north end of Gravina Island, 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Ketchikan, Alaska. The islands were named by local navigators in 1880 and charted by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The Guard Island Lighthouse is on the northern and larger of the two islands.

For years Alaska Natives and Russian fishermen, hunters, and traders plied the waters near Ketchikan, and countless lost vessels attested to the dangers of the shallow inlets and dense fog. After the United States acquired Alaska from Russia in 1867, the Senate requested a review of the Northwestern coasts to determine suitable spots for lighthouses, but it wasn’t until the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 that private citizens and traders clamored loudly enough for the Lighthouse Board to build a light station. Construction of Guard Island Lighthouse was authorized on April 21, 1903, and the following winter work commenced on the island with a force of men clearing and grading a site for the lighthouse. The light was illuminated for the first time on September 15, 1904, the square pyramidal wooden tower stood nearly 40 feet tall with a fog bell suspended from a beam on the north face of the tower. Also on the island were a two-story dwelling for the keepers, a boathouse, and an oil storage house.

The wood used for the original Guard Island Light Station soon deteriorated in the harsh weather conditions and in 1922, Congress authorized the reconstruction of Guard Island Light. In 1924, the dilapidated light tower was replaced with a new single-story rectangular tower of reinforced concrete. The station was automated by the Coast Guard in 1969. Read more here and here. Explore more of Guard Island here:

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