Lighthouses Seldom Seen

LA 2.  West Rigolets, Louisiana
All these photos can be ordered, use the state # (ME12) for example
and the A, B or C
, if there is more than one

This lighthouse was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Aug. 2005

West Rigolets, Louisiana

If you drive along Highway 90 in Louisiana, stop and take a look at Fort Pike, an old Civil War Fort. And when you leave Fort Pike going east, you'll cross the bridge across the Pearl River. As you cross, look over your left shoulder and off in the distance on the west side of the river, you will see the outline of a small lighthouse. It's not one of those tall towers, but a little square house with the tower in the middle of the roof. It's the West Rigolets (Rigolay) Lighthouse.

Built as a guide to vessels entering the Rigolets, the lighthouse was finished in 1855. It is a small building, with the light originally just 30 feet above the lake. The Rigolets are channels connecting Lake Ponchartrain to Mississippi sound. This little lighthouse went through hurricanes and storms and guided ships until 1945 when it was discontinued. During the Civil War, the keeper was murdered. Although no one ever discovered "who dunnit", he was the only lighthouse keeper known to be killed at his post during the hostilities. From the time it was discontinued, the lighthouse was more or less left to rot.

The first time we tried to see it, we could only see the lighthouse from the bridge. We had thought we could drive to it, but that turned out to be impossible. We looked around for a marina or someone with a boat. At that time the area seemed almost deserted and we were not able to get out to the lighthouse.

A year or so later we went back. We just waited around at the boat launch at Fort Pike, and the first fisherman that came to put his boat in the water agreed to take us to the lighthouse to take photos. (We often do this if we can't find any other way. People have been very nice to us and taken us to lighthouses). It was a gray day and we were not terribly thrilled with the photos. So, in January of this year, we were very happy to get an invitation to join Bruce Roberts and his wife, Cheryl Roberts, to go with them to West Rigolets.. Bruce and Cheryl are the authors of the book, "Lighthouse Families". Bruce is a photographer and with his partner, Ray Jones has authored many lighthouse books. To make it even better, it turned out that the man who arranged the trip was Lamar Bevil, a lighthouse enthusiast we had been in correspondence with for several years. It was so nice to meet him and his wife, Kim.

We were to meet the Roberts and the Bevils at the Holiday Inn near the airport in New Orleans. It was a beautiful morning, blue skies and some clouds in the sky. It took us near an hour to get to the boat launch at Fort Pike and a while later than that before the man with the boat arrived. Guess what? By the time we got in the boat, storm clouds had moved in and the wind started to blow. We got out to the lighthouse, tied the boat up, and we all got out on the rocks around the lighthouse. Lamar and Ben, the man with the boat, brought a ladder, so we could climb up to the deck of the lighthouse. Poor little building. The railings are gone, the windows are gone, but as we walked around, it had a solid feel. In one of the rooms, someone had burned a big circle on the floor. Luckily it had not burned through. We could see behind the lighthouse, the remains of two brick cisterns, and the oil house with part of it's roof gone.

We are no happier with this second set of photos than we were with the first, but sometime we hope to go back on a sunny day and take more cheerful images of this lighthouse. We also hope that someone will care enough to help stabilize it or even restore it, so that it is around for more years to come. As you can see at the top of the page,
this lighthouse is gone.  We will never be able to go back and reshoot its photo.

The historical info that I have given you here, came from the book "Lighthouses, Lightships and the Gulf of Mexico" by the late David Cipra, who is considered THE expert on lighthouses of the Gulf Coast.