Since the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, Alaska lighthouses have been a part of the thriving landscape. These beacons were especially important during the migration of the California gold rush north into Yukon territory. Several lighthouses were built during this time so that new visitors to the area could navigate the often treacherous waters that surround three sides of the state.
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Eldred Rock Light was one of the first lighthouses built during the gold rush and is the only surviving beacon from that era. Alaska’s climate isn’t conducive to wooden buildings sitting atop rocks, so the American Government relocated several of the historical lighthouses from the southeast to areas where preservationists can care for them.
Alaska’s lighthouses, which include Tree Point, Eldred Rock and Cape Hinchinbrook, all lie at the mouth of Prince William Sound. Several of the lighthouses, including Cape St. Elias Light, are built to identify small islands off the coast of Alaska. Cape Hinchinbrook was built following a grounding in 1906 of the ship Oregon. No one died in the accident however it was severe enough to warrant an act of the United States Congress to build a lighthouse. Many other Alaska lighthouses were built through acts of Congress, including Point Retreat Light.
The lighthouses of Alaska are picturesque, particularly because they have the summer green or winter white background provided by the Alaskan landscape. Visiting any lighthouse in this area requires a trip by boat or helicopter and typically only occurs in spring and summer.