Search National Register Search

[photo] Maritime Heritage Month

Aids to Navigation and
NPS Cultural Resource Programs

National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act | Grants & Preservation
Heritage Education | National Heritage Areas

Explore maritime history through the National Park Service's Maritime Heritage Program:

[photo] Maritime Heritage Program

America's maritime heritage...
is about the people and communities that built ships, shipped goods, sailed ships, kept lights, rescued wrecks, fished waters, and kept the sea lanes open
is about the use of waterways for commerce, transportation, defense, and recreation
is about the traditions and skills, arts and crafts, artifacts and documents, and buildings, structures, and vessels that reflect our past maritime endeavors what we help to interpret and preserve.

The Maritime Heritage Program also has a site specifically for Lighthouse Heritage. This site offers resources and advice for preservation, inventory/surveys, evaluation, and other informational features. There are some wonderful essays on Lighthouse Construction Types, Lenses and Illuminants, and much more!

National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act
(NHLPA) Program

NHLPA recognizes the cultural, recreational, and educational value associated with historic light station properties by allowing these to be transferred at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations, educational agencies, and community development organizations. Learn More about the NHLPA

DeTour Reef Lighthouse

Photo by Charles Dawley on Flickr

Since the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA) program was implemented in 2001, nearly 50 historic light stations have been transferred at no cost to qualified stewards. An additional 20 lights have been sold, with preservation covenants, at public auction. Five light stations were transferred in 2009, while three were sold at auction. For the 2010 program year, ten historic light stations have been offered for no-cost conveyance through NHLPA.

In June, 2010, Michigan's DeTour Reef Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the St. Mary's River in Lake Huron, was transferred to the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS). Under license with the U.S. Coast Guard, the DRLPS has been a faithful and award-winning steward of this off-shore light, raising more than a million dollars in private funds for its restoration and running a successful Keeper's program, allowing extended stays in the light's historic quarters. Transfer under NHLPA now places the light in the ownership of the DRLPS, who can more aggressively pursue preservation and public use programs.

Grants and Preservation


Bodie Island Lighthouse Restoration Project
NPS Photo courtesy of Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Save America's Treasures

The National Park Service's Save America's Treasures grant program has awarded $2.9 million to preserve 12 lighthouse preservation projects in 8 states.

For 133 years, the Bodie Island Light Station has been a reassurance to mariners navigating the "graveyard of the Atlantic" off North Carolina's Outer Banks. Standing since 1872, the lighthouse still sends its powerful beam out to sea. But in recent years, the impressive, towering brick structure has begun to show the effects of time. From its wrought iron staircase to the massive lens on top - a wonder of period technology - the lighthouse was wearing out. A $200,000 Save America's Treasures grant awarded to the Bodie Lighthouse, located in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is helping turn the tide of decay. The grant provided full documentation of the site and a critical structural assessment to guide restoration in 2008. In addition, it funded an assessment by the structural engineers and lead paint removal from areas heavily visited by tourists.

Bodie Island Lighthouse Restoration Project

HAER Documentation and Surveys of Bodie Island Lighthouse - part of the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) at Library of Congress


Heritage Documentation Programs

Heritage Documentation Programs administers HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey), the Federal Government's oldest preservation program, and companion programs HAER (Historic American Engineering Record), HALS (Historic American Landscapes Survey), and CRGIS (Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems). Documentation produced through the programs constitutes the nation's largest archive of historic architectural, engineering and landscape documentation. Records on nearly 40,000 historic sites, consisting of large-format, black and white photographs, measured drawings, and written historical reports, are maintained in a special collection at the Library of Congress.

Preserve America Grants

Maritime heritage is increasingly being recognized by communities for its educational value and as a tourist attraction. In 2008, Lewes, DE was awarded $35,000 in matching Preserve America grant funds to create an audio tour, visitor's brochure and map, and Maritime Heritage Trail signs. The project was completed earlier this year.


Heritage Education

Travel Itineraries Many National Register of Historic Places Travel Itineraries feature beautiful maritime heritage sites, from lighthouses, to canal locks, to ships and famous ports. The Maritime History of Massachusetts travel itinerary includes over 20 light stations - including this feature's Boston Light - and many more maritime heritage sites. With more than 750 miles of coastline, inhabitants of Massachusetts have relied upon maritime resources from prehistoric times to the present. This National Register of Historic Places travel itinerary highlights 89 of the historic places that tell the story of the interdependent relationship between Massachusetts and the sea.

Teaching with Historic Places features maritime related lesson plans. Here are two examples:

Little Kinnakeet NC Life Saving Station: Home to Unsung Heroes

Navesink Lighthouse and Robbins Reef Lighthouse: Lighting the Way Through New York Bay

National Heritage Areas

National Heritage Areas are places where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. National Heritage Areas appeal to all ages and interests. Some have opportunities for walking, hiking, biking and paddling. Some have festivals to attend and museums to visit. Many Areas provide volunteer opportunities, group tours, and multiple-day excursions and can also be visited in combination with over 90 units of the National Park Service.

N ational Heritage Areas are designated by Congress and each area is governed by separate authorizing legislation, operating under provisions unique to its resources and desired goals. There are currently 49 National Heritage Areas in 32 states across the country. The heritage area concept offers an innovative method for citizens, in partnership with local, state, and Federal government, and nonprofit and private sector interests, to shape the long-term future of their communities. The partnership approach creates the opportunity for a diverse range of constituents to come together to voice a range of visions and perspectives. Partners collaborate to shape a plan and implement a strategy that focuses on the distinct qualities that make their region special.


Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor

The LaSalle Canal Boat, The Volunteer, is a full-size replica of a 19th century canal boat that provides one-hour, round trip journeys along a portion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. The Illinois & Michigan Canal, completed in 1848, connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River watershed along a longstanding Indian portage route. The 97-mile canal extended from the Chicago River near Lake Michigan to the Illinois River at Peru, Illinois. It rapidly transformed Chicago from a small settlement to a critical transportation hub between the East and the developing Midwest. The towpath trail along the canal is a State park that runs through a rural and wooded landscape linking a number of towns laid out by the original canal commission.

LaSalle Canal Boat, The Volunteer
Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor


National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act | Grants & Preservation
Heritage Education | National Heritage Areas


Feature Home | Introduction | Highlighted Properties | Grants, Preservation & other NPS Programs | More

Comments or Questions





[graphic] Link to [graphic] National Park Service  Arrowhead and link to [graphic] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to