The Cockspur Lighthouse is the smallest lighthouse on the Georgia coast, but it is the one with the most personality as far as this photographer is concerned. It sits out in the water on a oyster bed foundation behind Fort Pulaski National Monument, at the mouth of the Savannah River’s south channel. During high tides, it can sometimes resemble a buoy because the rocks disappear beneath the water. Renowned architect, John S. Norris, designed and built the Cockspur in 1848, he took into consideration the battering it would receive from the elements and designed the eastern side like a ship’s prow. The Cockspur lighthouse was destroyed by a hurricane in 1854 but a larger replacement was built in 1855.
During the Civil War, which raged from 1861 to 1865, the Cockspur light was darkened. During a 30 hour siege of Fort Pulaski, thirty-six guns, spread through eleven batteries, fired repeatedly at opposing forces. The little Cockspur was right in the line of fire but miraculously escaped with only minor damage. No long after the war’s end in 1862, its light was relit and it was painted white. The Cockspur light shown bright until June 1, 1990 when they decided to extinguish her light forever.
In 1881 a gigantic storm ravaged the little light and destroyed the keeper’s house in twenty-three foot storm surge. The great hurricane of 1893, which killed 2,000 people, caused the keeper and assistants to take shelter in the northwest stair tower of Fort Pulaski.
You would think a large piece of architecture like this would be safe thieves but she was almost stolen. In March 1955, authorities found a couple of men dismantling the lighthouse, with hopes of selling the rare and valuable Savannah Gray bricks. When authorities asked them what they were doing, the men replied that they had a contract with the Department of Interior and the Cockspur Lighthouse had been slated to be decommissioned. Unfortunately for these culprits, the authorities knew that the Coast Guard actually owned the lighthouse and promptly arrested the would-be thieves. This chain of events actually spurred the true sale of the lighthouse to the National Park Service in 1959. NPS bought her for $50.
The Cockspur still resides in the South Channel, her strength evident by surviving even more hurricanes. She’s still regal looking, standing proud on her very own oyster bed. The doors to her interior are now closed because of the hazards visitors faced with the various tides. She’s a daylight marker now, warning boaters of her bed beneath the waves of the Savannah River.
When you cross the Lazeretto Creek bridge on your way to Tybee Island, look to your left and you’ll see here there watching you. While you’re visiting Fort Pulaski, take the short trail out to the water’s edge. You can get a closer view of the Cockspur there. She’s a beautiful sight to behold.
I took this photo during a dolphin tour with Capt’n Mike’s Dolphin Tours and it has consistently been one of my favorites. I love the drama in the sky showing the storm headed our way. You can purchase this image in prints or note cards and dress up your walls with beauty from Georgia’s coastline.