Little River Light

Words and Photographs by Michelle Martin

Dean and I were coming to the end of a two week road trip through New England. We had stayed in the mountains, driven through the densest summer beach towns, and been tempted to cross the border into Canada when we were far enough north in Vermont.  New England is full of history and that was apparent every night that we settled in
to a new temporary home for the evening. Log homes, small beach cottages, historic inns, they all had a story to tell. Our last stop of the trip was in Cutler, Maine at the Little River Lighthouse. We wanted one last truly New England experience before returning to our small apartment in the city.

Little River Lighthouse sits on a 15-acre island overlooking the Bay of Fundy with Canada visible in the distance. The lighthouse was built in the 1800’s and housed many families before it was taken over by the United States Coast Guard in 1939 after the US Lighthouse Service was abolished and taken over by the Coast Guard. In the early days there were farm animals and a small pasture on the island to help sustain the families who lived in the house. In the late 1990’s the lighthouse was boarded up and for many years no one wanted to take ownership of the property because of the cost to repair it. In 2000 the American Lighthouse Foundation was granted a historic preservation license and since then the lighthouse has been fully restored. In 2007 the Friends of Little River Light was formed and began allowing for overnight stays on the island in the light keepers house.

The entire interior of the house is frozen in the 1950’s and stepping through the front door feels like stepping back in time. The house itself is made up of a living room, kitchen, and three modest sized bedrooms upstairs. There are windows lining the ocean facing side and a small wood-burning stove that was used to heat the house, even in the dead of summer. It is said to be one of the first places in the Eastern United States to see the sunrise and after days of driving through crowded beach towns it felt refreshing to get far north where even in the middle of August you needed a light fleece. It was dusk when we arrived at the quiet harbor in Cutler, Maine. We loaded our bags into a small boat and were ferried across the bay by Terry & Cynthia Rowden, the keepers for the summer who have an extensive history of love and adoration for the lighthouse.

Upon arriving at the island there was a wooden walkway that snaked through the dense forest to the other side where the house was. We walked through the trees soaking up the quiet all around us. As we approached the other side of the island we could hear a loud foghorn, ten seconds between each blast. “You’ll get used to it,” Cynthia told us. And she was right, by the next morning you had to listen carefully to pull the sound of the foghorn out of the rhythmic pulse of the waves lapping against the rocky coast.

Little River was by far the most secluded, untouched, and peaceful of the historic places we had experienced. It was what we had been
looking for the entire time.

After settling in, the Rowden’s lit a small fire in the wood burning stove and turned in for the evening. Dean and I put on a couple extra layers and headed out to the picnic table to enjoy a simple dinner overlooking the bay. We reflected on the two weeks that had been spent on the road in New England and all the different landscapes, people, and places we had stayed. You can’t escape history in New England and Little River was no exception to this. However, Little River was by far the most secluded, untouched, and peaceful of the historic places we had experienced. It was what we had been looking for the entire time.