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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 9

The Canadian Lighthouse

by Edward F. Bush

Selected Inland Waterways

Lighthouses per se, other then on the Great Lakes and the upper St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, are rarely encountered on Canada's inland waterways. Mast and pole lights serve this function. Of the few bona fide lighthouses in this vast inland region of innumerable freshwater lakes and their connecting river systems, few are old enough or distinctive enough to be of historical interest; Black Bear Island lighthouse on Lake Winnipeg and several frame structures on the Ottawa River are possible exceptions.

Ottawa River

The first lighthouses to be built on the Ottawa were at Green Shoal opposite Templeton, lit for the first time on 27 October 1860, and at Point Valois, which went into service on the sixth of the same month. The latter was a floating light mounted on an iron barge which was discontinued a number of years ago. The reflector apparatus used employed flat-wick coal oil lamps.1 The Green Shoal structure, now over a century old, consists of a square tower 21 feet in height from base to vane, its timbers and lumber of oak and pine. The total estimate for the project came to $3,985.2

On the upper Ottawa, three surviving structures claim our attention, one of which is of rather unusual height. Both follow the familiar configuration of square towers, with sloping sides (pepper-pot style) and square wooden lanterns, and both first saw service in 1873. One was built on Morris Island at the lower end of broad and placid Lake Chats, and the other at Deep River Islet (Fig. 83), a 24-foot square frame tower with a pronounced slope to its shingled sides, located above Allumette Island on the upper Ottawa.3

83 Deep River Islet Lighthouse, Ottawa River. (Canada. Department of Transport.)

The 26-foot Arnprior Island lighthouse, built in 1885 a half-mile off-shore from the thriving lumber town of the same name, is an unusually tall structure for a river lighthouse. Built on a small rocky islet in Lake Chats, this graceful structure is set on a square stone foundation. Two straight flights of stairs of almost ladder-like pitch lead to the square lantern platform, which has a pronounced overhang and is supported by eight brackets. The lantern, as may be seen in Figure 84, is square and set upon a pedestal of similar shape.

84 Arnprior Island lighthouse. (Photo by author's son.)

85 Morris Island lighthouse. (Photo by author's son.)

86 Killarney East Range light. (Photo by author's son.)

Lake Nipigun

In 1938, the uninhabited and closely wooded shores of Lake Nipigon lying just to the north of Lake Superior witnessed the installation of their first light. To date, a total of 10 pole lights have been put in service, including one at Tichnor Island which is mounted on a tree stump.4

Lake Winnipeg

The broad but shallow waters of Lake Winnipeg are frequently the scene of squalls, making for hazardous navigation for all but the stoutest vessels. In 1898, Lake Winnipeg's lonely shores witnessed the installation of their first two lighthouses at Gull Harbour and Black Bear Island. The latter, simply a light showing from the cupola of a frame house, is still the original installation, but a steel skeleton tower now serves at Gull Harbour.5 Pipe towers and pole lights predominate at light installations on Lake Winnipeg as upon sundry other inland waterways.

Mackenzie River System

Moving to the north of the sixtieth parallel and following the Mackenzie River system on its 1,500-mile progress from the headwaters of the Liard and Lake Athabasca to the Arctic Ocean, we may note that the first light to be established on Great Slave Lake was at Outpost Island in 1932. Most of the lights in this northerly region have been mounted on aluminum tripod towers in the period since the last war.6 Indeed river traffic on this northward-flowing sub-Arctic waterway has so increased since the war that in 1956 the establishment of a new marine agency at Forth Smith, N.W.T., with jurisdiction over the whole Great Slave Lake—Mackenzie River system, was effected.

Finally, on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, well within the Arctic Circle, are the range lights of Tuktoyaktuk (popularly known as "Tuk-Tuk"), in latitude 69°N. The lights in this remote Arctic region are mounted on 20- to 40-foot aluminum open-work tripod towers, the first of which was installed in 1956.7

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