Floating four-lighthouse tour on the Hudson

Rondout Lighthouse (photo by Dion Ogust)

Seven of the Hudson River’s original 14 lighthouses (including the Statue of Liberty) survive, and on Saturday, September 22 you can visit the four northernmost ones on an all-day boat tour. The Spirit on Hudson, a replica of a Mississippi River paddlewheeler, will depart Hudson at 7:30 a.m. and wend her way downriver, making stops at guided tours of the lighthouses at Athens, Saugerties, Kingston and Esopus Meadows.

At the Athens lighthouse, visitors have a rare opportunity to hear Emily Brunner’s firsthand account of growing up in the lighthouse in the 1930s: Brunner’s father, Frank Brunner, was the keeper from 1930 and 1949 and lived at the lighthouse with his family until 1938, when they moved into town. She is the last living link to the people who lived at and operated Hudson River lighthouses.

All of these historic structures have been restored, evoking a lost world of boat navigation, heroism – when a wreck happened, the keeper was often the first person on the scene, saving lives in his or her rowboat – and isolation experienced in the midst of the elements. Today, these quaint Victorian structures lend charm to the river views.

Saugerties, opening in 1869, is the oldest – the Italianate brick building is a popular bed-and-breakfast and is the only lighthouse that still has a live-in keeper – while Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, which is perched far from shore, marking the mudflats where cattle once grazed, is the only one constructed of wood. Kingston is the newest, opening in 1915; it replaced an earlier structure, which was famous for having a female keeper: Catherine Murdock, who took over after her husband drowned, raised her family as a single woman in the lighthouse and was keeper of the old bluestone lighthouse on the Rondout for 50 years, from 1857 to 1907.

That story and many others will be shared on the tour, adding to the fascination of these intriguing structures. The tour, which costs $150, includes onboard continental breakfast and a buffet lunch. Participants will be bused back to Hudson around 8 p.m. For reservations, call the Hudson/Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society at (518) 822-1014. The Spirit on Hudson has been berthed at Hudson for nine years and is available for charters.

The Spirit on Hudson’s “Tour d’Four” will depart Hudson at 7:30 a.m. on September 22 and make stops at four historic lighthouses. Participants will be bused back to Hudson from the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston at 8 p.m. The cost is $150, which includes lunch and breakfast. For more information, visit https://hudsonathenslighthouse.org.

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