“Two men took a boat to the lighthouse in 2008 and climbed to the top of the lighthouse. As they started to descend, the ladder broke, stranding them in the tower. Fortunately, one of the men had a cell phone and called for help. Firefighters soon arrived, and, after having to swim across the inlet near the lighthouse, they succeeded in rescuing the men with a rope harness. The two grateful men were cited by the local sheriff’s department for trespassing and property damage.”
This is but one of the accounts in the storied history of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. If, like me, you’re into history, the Lighthouse at the Louisiana / Texas border is filled with it.
My journey to the lighthouse began when I saw a photo of it on Facebook. Upon further investigation, I learned that I could get up close and personal with this slice of history.
Let me begin at the beginning, the most logical place to start a story.
After seeing the lighthouse photograph, I started to research its location. Being from just southeast of New Orleans, it was going to be about a four and a half to five hour drive! Still, I wanted to see it for myself – and photograph it of course!
I called the Cameron Parish Library (Johnson Bayou Branch) and a gentleman named Jack answered the phone. I nervously asked if this was the place I’m supposed to call to gain access to the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. He said it was and only needed some quick information to get me set up. This was a shock to me as most thing like this are filled with disappointment. Jack couldn’t have been more helpful, however, and said all he needed was my name, what kind of vehicle I was driving and when I wanted to come out – that’s really about it. I wasn’t sure exactly when I would get there as I wanted to make sure I could even get to the location before getting too far in the planning process. He then told me all he really needed was a ‘ball park’ idea of the time, so I told him I would call back the next day with that information.
Now, It’s important to mention that I was speaking to him on the Thursday before the Memorial day weekend. He said the Library would be open from 8:00 – 12:00 the next day. When I got my timing all planned out, I called him back and he was very nice and said he would send an email to Cheniere to let them know to expect me.
I have to be honest, I didn’t know what a ‘Cheniere’ was, but he gave me the address and said they’d be there, so I was all set.
I spent Saturday getting my gear ready and making final plans.
I got up about 4:30 AM Sunday morning and started out. I had never driven this far west, so it was an interesting drive – not bad at all. When I arrived at the address that Jack had given me, I was surprised to see that “Cheniere” was a high security refinery! I was thinking; “Oh, great, I’m never getting in here!”
However, I had come this far so I decided I may as well give it a shot. I entered the visitor center and told the woman behind the glass that I was there to go to the lighthouse and that she should have an email about it. I’m thinking; “No way this is going to work out.”
To my surprise, she just asked to see my driver’s license and told me to go to the guard shack at the gate right next to the visitor’s center. Jack had done exactly as he said he would! The next guard at the shack, just jotted down my license plate number and told me to proceed to gate 3 where my escort would be.
It worked! I was in!
I made my way down the short road to gate 3 where I was met by armed security and told that my escort would be along shortly. While we waited, he told me about some other historical sites that I might be interest in on the Texas side. He was very nice as well!
Sure enough, another guard in a pick-up truck pulled up and guided me to the gate. He opened it and motioned me to go on in! I have to admit I was concerned about driving my Mustang back there, but the road wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t go all the way to the very end, but stopped at the last little turn. That last short bit seemed a bit muddier and ‘softer’ than the rest. I was plenty close enough and just walked to the end. I couldn’t believe I was this close to this lighthouse.
I spent the next hour or so (probably longer, but time flies when you’re having fun!).
I took photos with my main camera and shot video and still images from my drones. I’ll be working on that video very soon.
After I was finished by the lighthouse – I wasn’t actually ready to go, but I could see the rain was coming and I didn’t want to have any issues getting back out.
I’m not sure if I needed to, but I stopped back at gate 3 to let security know that I was leaving and a different guard asked if I enjoyed myself back by the lighthouse and warned me to drive carefully in the coming storm – such nice people!
I realize this has been a very detailed story and there’s a reason for that.
Upon my return home I wanted to call back and thank Jack for all of his help.
Well, It turns out that Jack was just filling in for a nice lady named Sherry. I explained that I wanted to thank Jack and we started talking about the lighthouse. It turns out she had just been out there for a visit herself around the same time as me!
Here’s the thing, I felt like I was being an inconvenience, not because anyone treated me that way, just because I was involving other people (and a whole refinery) in my desire to see an old lighthouse. However, when I spoke to Sherry, it turns out that they want people to visit! So, I want to lay out exactly how you go about visiting this iconic location.
- Call the Johnson Bayou Library 1-337-569-2892. Let them know that you’d like to visit the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. They’ll tell you exactly what to do.
- Go to the visitor’s center at Cheniere and verify who you are – AFTER the library has sent your request to them – I wouldn’t recommend just showing up unannounced! Follow their instructions carefully.
- Bring water if you go in the summer – it’s hot. Some bug spray would be a good idea too. I didn’t see any alligators, but they are certainly back there. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one – just be aware of it.
- Have fun and be respectful of this historical landmark that’s been around since BEFORE the Civil war!
- Whatever you do – don’t forget your camera!
I stayed the night in Port Arthur – more on that later. The main reason I did that was so I could get some photos of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse at sunrise. I had a great time visiting history and the people that I interacted with made the trip that much better!
If you’d like more information, here’s some links to more information;
The opening quote for this article came from the “lighthouse Friends” webpage.
Here’s a few of the photos that I took of the Sabine Pass Light during my visit;