The lower Delaware River in the Philadelphia area is not a place where you would expect to find historic lighthouses, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in the nearby village of Paulsboro, NJ. Located directly across the Delaware from Philadelphia International Airport, the Tinicum Island Rear Range Light is a significant lighthouse built in 1880 to mark a section of the navigable waterway along the Paulsboro riverfront south of Philadelphia.
So what exactly is a “rear range” light? Lights such as this one work in tandem with a second light, known as a “front range” light and when the two are aligned back-to-back in a certain orientation along the river, they combine to form a pathway for ships to follow in order to avoid navigable hazards. In this case, the tandem light setup was developed to help craft navigate around Little Tinicum Island in the middle of the river nearby. The rear range light here in Paulsboro is the more famous of the two and it is this light that is featured in this post.
Still active today, the lighthouse’s operations were automated in 1933. The light has a nautical range of 18 miles and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2005. Seasonal tours of the lighthouse are offered by the Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse Society every third weekend of the months of April thru October. Included in the tour is a climb up the 112-step stairway to the lantern room at the top of the tower as well as inside information about its history and construction. Definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area or “just passing through”.