Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Lighthouse Rd

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

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Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in the nation. The lighthouse site houses a visitors center that is open throughout the year with exhibits on the island's maritime history. The beacon from the light can be seen some 20-miles out to sea, warning sailors of the treacherous Diamond Shoals, the shallow sandbars which extend some 14 miles out into the ocean off Cape Hatteras.

It is said that the engineer who was originally assigned the task of painting North Carolina's lighthouses, got the plans mixed up and the diamond-shaped figures, suitable for warning traffic away from Diamond Shoals, ended up on the lighthouse at Cape Lookout and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse received the spiral striping, thereby forever gaining the nickname ''The Big Barber Pole.''

It was built between 1868 and 1870 with 1,250,000 bricks baked in kilns along the James River in Virginia and brought in scows into Cape Creek where it was hauled by oxen one mile to the building site in Buxton. Its' walls at the base are 14 feet of solid masonry and narrow to eight feet at the top. Weighing 6,250 tons, the lighthouse was built with no pilings under it - just a foundation built of heart pine. Towering 196 feet from the base to the top brick and then topped with an iron superstructure, it become the tallest brick lighthouse on the American coast at 208 feet.

In the summer of 1999, the Cape Hatteras Light was moved from its original location where erosion threatened the structure.

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is still considered an operational aid to navigation maintained by the United States Coast Guard and the National Park Service. However, the need for the lighthouse has been reduced by modern day GPS and other electronic navigational devices.

The National Park Service permits climbing to the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse is open for tours from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day. The climb is considered strenuous because it is equivalent to 12 stories. There is a handrail on only one side of the stairs, and there is two-way traffic on the stairs.



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