Boca Grande Entrance Rear Range Light worked in conjunction with a flashing light atop a twenty-foot-tall steel structure located offshore. When a captain positioned his vessel so that the light from the rear range was positioned directly above the flashing light of the front range, he knew he was in the middle of the shipping channel. The captain would continue north in the channel, until he reached a series of towers that marked the channel leading east to the safe anchorage at Port Boca Grande.
The Boca Grande tower isn’t the only example of a tower being relocated to a different section of the country to continue its service. Just a few years after the tower was moved to Florida, a skeletal tower was transferred from the Delaware River in Pennsylvania to Michigan Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. Likewise, a tower used on Sapelo Island in Georgia until 1933 was dismantled and shipped to Fox Island in Lake Michigan.
The front range light of the Boca Grande Entrance Range was discontinued in 2003, and the rear light was renamed Gasparilla Island Lighthouse, the name the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse had before being deactivated in 1966. Plans to discontinue the light in 2004 were scrapped following public appeals, and the lighthouse remained in operation, guiding vessels safely through Boca Grande Channel into the safe confines of Charlotte Harbor, until it was deactivated in early 2017. The tower’s white light, which was alternately on for three seconds and off for three seconds, was displayed at a focal plane of 105 feet, with a red sector marking a dangerous approach.
In April 2016, the lighthouse and adjacent land were licensed to Barrier Island Park Society, which began a campaign to raise funds to restore the island landmark. By September 2016, the society had collected sufficient funds to begin restoring the tower, and over the next six months, replica nuts and bolts were put in place to secure the tower, replicas of the front access and lantern room doors were made, and the entire tower was repainted after the old paint and rust were removed.
Starting in April 2017, the tower opened for climbing a few days per month, except in August when the temperature inside the tower can be over 100 degrees.
On February 9, 2019, a relighting ceremony was held at Gasparilla Island Lighthouse where a replica of the fourth-order Fresnel lens used in the tower was unveiled. Following a lengthy approval process, the lighthouse has been designated a private aid to navigation and will once again send forth a flash every six seconds. The new light is produced by an amber, turtle-friendly Max Halo II bulb. This video shows Dan Spinella of Artworks Florida installing the replica Fresnel lens atop the lighthouse on January 11, 2019.