PRICE'S CREEK RANGE LIGHT
Price's Creek Range Light
Latitude: 33° 56' 09.9" N
Longitude: 77° 59' 23.0" W
Located on the west side of the Cape Fear River, just north of Southport in southern North Carolina, Price’s Creek once consisted of a front and rear range light for a safe channel in the hazardous river as vessels headed for the port of Wilmington.
Of the two structures that were built in 1849 and activated in 1850, all that remains today is the twenty-foot-tall brick, conical tower of the front light, without its birdcage styled lantern room or lens. The keeper's quarters that once stood behind it with a light that was at a higher elevation served as the second light in the pair of range lights. Both range lights once housed sixth-order Fresnel lenses.
Range Lights mark a safe channel into smaller bodies of water including inlets, rivers, and harbors. Designers made two lights work together. One shorter tower built close to the water teamed up with a second taller tower, which also housed the keeper, was built behind it. As vessels entered the channel, navigators lined up the taller light directly above the shorter light. When the lights were aligned, captains were able to navigate safely. The sands in these waters moves constantly like the shoals in the oceans. When the lights aligned correctly, the boat could travel over the deepest part of the water. HOWEVER, since the sands moved constantly, the corps of engineers constantly had to dredge to keep it navigable. This cost money, took time... SO, they started building the shorter tower on wheels so that it could be moved easily!
Price’s Creek served as a guiding light for blockade-runners although both lights were officially deactivated by the U.S. government in 1861.
The ruins of Price’s Creek Front Range Light are located on property owned by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), just adjacent to the Southport Ferry Terminal, and therefore not open to the public.
However, you are afforded a good view of this pre-Civil War tower, the only range light in North Carolina still in its original location, from the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry. Visit the NC DOT Ferry Route webpage or call 1-800-368-8969 or 910-457-6942 for ferry routes and schedules.