A New Light Tower Established at Historic Baker Range

By Bob Trapani, Jr.

Baker Range Front Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Baker Range Front
Light was deactivated
in October 2002

Baker Range added a chapter to its history when U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Philadelphia activated the optic to a new range front light at 2200 hours on October 9, 2002. The newly erected tower is the third structure to serve as the front light for this range during its one hundred-year existence. Baker Range, which located near Port Penn, Delaware, off St. Augustine Beach, helps guide commercial shipping traffic on the Delaware River between Artificial Island and northward of Reedy Island below the C & D Canal. According to Captain James Roche of the Pilots’ Association for the Bay and River Delaware, “Baker Range is one of the unique ones in the river. Since it is placed on a bend, there is a strong cross current.”

Chief Michael Baroco
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

"The foundation of the old
structure located on Reedy
Islandwas being eroded and the
light was in danger of falling.
This was a proactive step to
avoid the light going down
and becoming a discrepancy."
- Chief Michael Baroco

The combination of strong currents and heavy wakes from ships passing nearby the southwest end of Reedy Island caused the water-locked island to suffer serious erosion to the point where the loss of soft marsh land threatened the well being of the light tower at Baker Range Front Light. This concern prompted the Coast Guard to take action and avert having to cope with a potential structural problem at the site in the not-too-distant future. As Chief Michael Baroco, Officer in Charge of USCG ANT Philadelphia, stated, “The foundation of the old structure located on Reedy Island was being eroded and the light was in danger of falling. This was a pro-active step to avoid the light going down and becoming a discrepancy.”

The United States Lighthouse Service first established the Baker Range in 1902 by relocating the historic pyramidal skeletal tower from the decommissioned old Reedy Island Range to serve as the rear light, while building a new structure to serve as the front light for the newly formed range. By 1924, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was forced to rebuild the range front light, which then stood another 78 years before being replaced this year due to erosion concerns.

One hundred years later, the Pilots still rely heavily on Baker Range for safe navigation in this vicinity. Retired Pilot Paul Ives notes, “Baker Range is a principal leg of the main channel, which has to be transited before reaching Reedy Island Range at the top of the entrance to the C & D Canal and Delaware City.” Captain Ives goes on to say, “The main distinction with Baker Range is that it is one of the shortest ranges in the river at about 1.65 miles in length. The turn from Liston Range onto Baker is marked by the light aid named Baker 2B that sets back some distance in the turn. Therefore, you have to be careful not to turn too tightly around “2B” or you could end up far to the east of Baker Range. Baker Range was always a welcome sight after 18.58 miles up Liston Range in a slow ship on an ebb current and northwest wind.”

Reedy Island
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view of the erosion occurring at Reedy Island

The Coast Guard construction tender SLEDGE removed the range front light from the southwest corner of Reedy Island and established a new structure out in the water on the southeast side of island. The new tower has a focal plane of 35-feet and shows a fixed green light from an RL-24 optic that shines 24-hours a day. Chief Baroco likes the new tower, saying, “It’s a nice structure with plenty of room up there on the platform – something of a rarity on many of our lights.”

The new range front light is a temporary fix until the Coast Guard finishes work on the development to construct a new Baker Range. It is anticipated that this project is still several years away.

Created: October 2002

Coast Guard construction tender SLEDGE
Photo by Michael Baroco

Coast Guard construction tender
SLEDGE building the new tower at Baker
Range Front Light

 
Baker Range Front Light
Photo by Michael Baroco

The new tower at Baker Range Front Light

Baker Range Front Light
Photo by Michael Baroco

The old Baker Range Front Light shown
lit for the last time on October 9, 2002

 
Baker Range Front Light
Photo by Michael Baroco

The foundation to the old Baker Range Front
Light showing the effects of age and erosion

Coast Guard construction tender SLEDGE
Photo by Michael Baroco

Coast Guard construction tender SLEDGE
builds the new Baker Range Front Light

 
USCG ANT Philadelphia personnel
Photo by Michael Baroco

USCG ANT Philadelphia personnel
activate the new Baker Range Front Light