Gasparilla Island Lighthouse
A rear range lighthouse is used in the same way that you line up
the sights on a gun. When one lighthouse is directly behind the other, then a captain
knows he is in the middle of the channel. The Gasparilla light serves this purpose. Built
in 1927, it stands 105 feet tall and had to be moved once because the beach had eroded
dangerously close to it. Fortunately, these cast-iron skeletal lighthouses were bolted
together, making disassembly possible. The lighthouse has a narrow lantern room just under
the light, making it look somewhat out of proportion, so it doesnt rank up there
with the most attractive lighthouses in Florida. The Boca Grande Lighthouse a mile down
the road, however, makes up for its companions lack of style.
Boca Grande is the town, Gasparilla is the island, but most people know this place
simply as Boca Grande. It was a thriving port when phosphate was discovered and mined in
Bartow, directly east of Tampa. The Peace River ran from the area of the mining down to
Port Charlotte, near Boca Grande. River barges were used to deliver goods to the port for
shipping until 1909. At that time, a railroad was completed from Bartow to Boca Grande,
making it possible for phosphate to be shipped directly to Boca Grande by rail.
The island not only grew economically because of the phosphate industry; it also became
a popular social spot during the winter for residents from the North. The railroad offered
special excursions from New York to accommodate the many wealthy tourists. To this day,
tarpon fishing continues to bring in many sport fishermen, and the area is known worldwide
for its Annual Tarpon Tournament. The tarpon has become the symbol of the areamaybe
even more so than the lighthousesand images of tarpon can be found just about
everywhere in town.
The Gasparilla Island lighthouse is not open to the public but the grounds are, and you can walk right up
to it. There is a wonderful beach and parking only a few hundred feet away. Nearby
downtown Boca Grande has many quaint shops and restaurants to enjoy.