Rhode Island Lighthouses

Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse
(Mussel Bed Shoals Lighthouse,
Muscle Bed Shoals Lighthouse)

Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse
 Courtesy of the National Archives

Location: Entrance to Mount Hope Bay
Location: 1873 - present l Lat 41 38 10.665 N - Long 71 15 38.184 W
Established: 1873

First Lighthouse Constructed: 1873
Second Lighthouse Constructed: 1924
Lighthouse Removed and Replaced With Skeleton tower: 1939
Original Illuminating Apparatus: Six-Order Fresnel Lens
Second Illuminating Apparatus: Fourth Order Fresnel Lens (1935)
Third Illuminating Apparatus: 375 mm Lens (1952)
Current Illuminating Apparatus: 250 mm Lens
Height: Lighthouse: Light 19 feet from ground (1906)

Height: Skeleton tower: 26 feet (2016)
Status: Active Aid to Navigation / Skeleton Tower
Light Characteristic: Lighthouse: Fixed Red (1906)

Light Characteristic: Skeleton Tower: Flashing Red Every 5 seconds (1952)

Light Characteristic:Skeleton tower: Flashing White Every 5 seconds (1960)

Light Characteristic:Skeleton tower: Musselbed Shoals Light 6A
Light Characteristic:Skeleton tower: White Every 6 seconds (1988)
Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower:Flashing Red Every 6 seconds (2005)

Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower:Musselbed Shoals Directional Light (2005)
Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower:Fixed White with Red and Green Sectors
Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower:Red sector from 43° 30' to 49° 15'
Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower:Green sectors from 52° 45' to 58° 30'
Range: Lighthouse: 7½ miles (1906)

Range: Skeleton Tower: 8 miles (1952)

Range:Skeleton Tower:Musselbed Shoals Light 6A
Range:Skeleton Tower:7 miles (1988)
Range:Skeleton Tower:6 miles (2014)

Range:Skeleton Tower:Musselbed Shoals Directional Light (2014)
Range:Skeleton Tower:White 9 miles
Range:Skeleton Tower:Red 7 miles
Range:Skeleton Tower:Green 7 miles
Fog Signal: Bell Struck By Machinery (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 20 Seconds
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 20 Seconds
Location: Established: First Lighthouse Constructed: Second Lighthouse Constructed: Replaced With Skeleton Tower: Original Illuminating Apparatus: Second Illuminating Apparatus: Third Illuminating Apparatus: Current Illuminating Apparatus: Height: Status: Light Characteristic: Range: Fog Signal: Fog Signal Characteristic:

In the early 1800's, ships sailing between Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay had to thread through a narrow channel between Hog Island Shoals and Musselbed Shoals. If the ships strayed from the channel, they would wreck on the shoals.

The Old Colony Steamboat Company ran a line of steamships between New York and Fall River, Massachusetts. They maintained a lightship on Hog Island Shoals to help their ships navigate through the channel. The Lighthouse Board wanted to replace it with a government lighthouse. They estimated it would cost $45,000 to build the lighthouse.

After several years of being denied the money for the Hog Island Shoal lighthouse, the Lighthouse Board decided to put a light on an existing stone tower on Musselbed Shoals. It is a half-mile from Hog Island Shoals. The Board changed its mind about putting a light on a stone tower and decided to build a wood lighthouse instead.

The lighthouse was built in 1873. It was first lighted on August 1 using a sixth order Fresnel lens.

During the winter of 1875, floating ice struck Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse. It moved the light's stone pier four feet. The light stayed in operation, but needed frequent adjustments to work properly.

In 1878, the lighthouse was removed from the stone pier and was taken ashore. A granite pier was built in its place. The lighthouse was placed on the new pier.

On January 5th, 1920 ice damaged the Musselbed Shoals lighthouse's foundation again. The ice pushed a large foundation stone ( size 8 feet x 5 feet x 18 inches) out of the southeast corner of the foundation. It also loosened all the adjoining stones for a distance eight feet on either side of the corner.

A February 17th, 1920 memo on the inspection of damage at Musselbed Shoals lighthouse described it as "very small and inconvenient and not suitable". The memo recommended either building a larger lighthouse or if electricity become available in the area, the lighthouse should be electrified and be operated from Bristol Ferry Lighthouse.

In 1924, Musselbed Shoals first lighthouse was torn down and was replaced with a four room lighthouse. The second lighthouse was damaged during the 1938 Hurricane and was removed in 1939. It was replaced with a skeleton tower.

1924 Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse
1924 Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse Keeper
Courtesy of Portsmouth Historical Society of Portsmouth Rhode Island

See more of Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse in Rhode Island Lighthouses: A Pictorial History by R Holmes.
Updated 10/2/2016