Is This the Only Lighthouse Along the Mississippi River?

Written by Mitchelle Morgan
Updated: July 18, 2023
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Mississippi River infographic
There are many lighthouses along the Mississippi, and the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse is one of the most well-known.

For a long time, lighthouses served as a symbol of security and hope. Traditionally, lighthouses were used to guide and serve as a safe passage for sailors. They would protect them and the land nearby, thus helping maintain a balance between the waters and land.

These lighthouses served as warnings to mariners and would warn them against the dangerous shallow yet perilous rocky coats. They also guided vessels into safety, especially in and out of harbors.

Depending on the lighthouse, the message would always be for sailors and mariners to stay away, beware of danger, or follow a specific path.

The bottom line is that the lighthouses were a significant part of marine life along rivers and coastlines. Over time, things changed, and innovations brought about newer and better ways to help navigate the waters. As such, most of the lighthouses have since been rendered functionless, with many turning into tourist attraction sites.

The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse is such an example. It was constructed as an honor to one of Hannibal’s legendary citizens, Mark Twain, and not necessarily to serve as a guide along the Mississippi River.

Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse is not the only lighthouse along the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River may not have any functioning lighthouses today. One that most people identify with, the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse, isn’t used for navigation purposes. It is more of a memoir.

Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse in Hannibal, Missouri.

©Jens Bludau, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Significance of the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse

This lighthouse was built to honor the life and profound legacy of Mark Twain, an American writer who grew up in Hannibal. It serves as an ornamental piece of construction not meant for navigational aid.

It is found on Cardiff Hill, following Mark’s popular fictional characters, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer’s childhood playing location. Also worth noting is that the current structure at the place is not the original one which was first put in place in 1935 to commemorate the writer’s 100th birthday.

A second lighthouse had to be erected in 1960 after the original one got carried away in a windstorm. Even this second one was brought down a better one, the current structure erected in 2019.

Visitors get to the lighthouse through a staircase leading from Rock Street. Also included is an interpretive sign describing the lighthouse’s history. It is unknown whether visitors can go inside the lighthouse, though.

Size and Exact Location

This memorial lighthouse is set on 10 acres of land in Cardiff Hill Park. It seats across the E. Rock and E. Cardiff streets and has parking close to the top, so you never have to worry about parking. Also available is a rear/ back entrance from Cardiff Hill Drive that offers handicapped access to the parking.

Two hundred forty-four steps lead up to the lighthouse from the North End of the main street in the historic Hannibal downtown.

Apart from the lighthouse, the area around offers panoramic views of the entire Hannibal area and the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, the public (in this case, tourists/visitors) are not allowed inside the lighthouse.

While the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse may be the only remaining lighthouse along the Mississippi today, there have been many before. The significant role played by lighthouses in previous economies cannot be downplayed despite most of the remnants serving as remnant historic sites today.

10 Other Lighthouses of the Mississippi River

Many of the lighthouses along the river have since lost their significance. Some lighthouses that might still be linked to the river are captured below.

1. Biloxi Lighthouse

The lighthouse is located in Biloxi and next to the Mississippi Sound on the Gulf of Mexico.

It is one of the lighthouses that female light keepers have maintained for more years than any other lighthouses in U.S. history. It was declared a Mississippi landmark in 1987.

The Biloxi lighthouse is located in Biloxi and next to the Mississippi Sound on the Gulf of Mexico.

©Sean Pavone/

2. Cat Island Light

This lighthouse was located on Cat Island off Mississippi Island. Initially constructed to help guide ships through the Mississippi Sound, it was discontinued when the traffic moved to the South. The tower was damaged in the hurricanes of 1860 and burned by the Confederates in a civil war.

3. East Pascagoula River Light

This lighthouse was located in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was a house with a lantern on top. It was first lit in 1854, extinguished during the civil war, and later relit in 1868. However, in 1906, the Mississippi hurricane destroyed the lighthouse and was never rebuilt.

4. Horn Island Light

The Lighthouse later became known as the Petit Bois Light and was one of the Mississippi lighthouses. It was initially on the Eastern End of Horn Island but was moved and rebuilt severally before becoming deactivated in 1961.

5. Lake Borgne Light

The Lake Borne Light was one of the Mississippi lighthouses located at the entrance of Lake Borgne, currently known as the Lighthouse Point, east of Heron Bay. It was built in 1889 to replace the first light on  St. Joseph’s Island since it was shrinking and is currently gone.

The new lighthouse was destroyed in the Mississippi hurricane of 1906 but was rebuilt and later deactivated in 1937. It was abandoned, and the foundation of the light is naked as a hazard since the land has eroded further.

6. Merrill Shell Bank Light

This was a screw pile lighthouse on the Mississippi in 1860. The light was extinguished by Confederates but not damaged; hence it was relit in 1863. However, in 1880, a fire damaged the house; in 1883, another fire damaged it completely.

However, it was rebuilt in the same year. It was later automated in 1932, and by 1945 it was removed, and the skeleton tower replaced it. In 2005, the hurricanes damaged the tower, but it was not until 2007 that it was discontinued.

7. Natchez LightHouse

This was built in 1825. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a tornado in 1840.

8. Pass Christian Light

This is one of the earliest Mississippi lighthouses built in the state and was first lit in 1831. It was deactivated in 1882 and then later demolished.

9. Round Island Light

This Lighthouse existed from 1895 to 1998. It was toppled over by Hurricane Georges in 1998, and by 2010, its base was removed from Round Island with other lighthouse remnants. These were relocated to Pascagoula City to be restored.

10. Ship Island Light

The first tower at the location was built in 1853; although arrangements began earlier due to land ownership tassels, a few delays happened. The initial building used bricks, multiple lamps, and reflector systems before upgrading to a fresnel lens.

The above are examples of actual lighthouses in the Mississippi River used for navigation. While most of them ended up abandoned and unused in later years, they served their purpose when needed.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © K. Bradley Washburn/

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About the Author

Mitchelle is a content writer who loves nature. She loves writing about animals and plants. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and going for nature walks.

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