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Port Borden Range Front, PE     

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Port Borden Range Front Lighthouse

Before the arrival of powerful ferries, ice-boats were used to transport mail and passengers to and from Prince Edward Island during the winter. Two ports for this purpose were used on the island, one at Wood Islands, which linked to Pictou, Nova Scotia, and another at Cape Traverse, which connected to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. The route between Cape Traverse and Cape Tormentine was the shortest distance between the island and the mainland at just over 8.5 miles.

Port Borden Front Lighthouse in 1921
Photograph courtesy Canadian Coast Guard
The ice-boats were approximately 5.25 metres (17.2 feet) in length by 1.24 metres (4 feet) in width and were sheathed in metal. Metal runners on the bottom of the boats allowed then to glide across the ice, while oars were provided for crossing sections of open water. Stout men were strapped into a harness, which was attached using a chain and leather straps to the boat’s gunwales, to help pull the boat over the ice. Passengers could opt to pay a minimal amount and help push the boat over the ice or could pay a few dollars more and ride inside the boat with the mail.

Ice-boat service at Cape Traverse began in 1827 and continued until 1917, when the icebreaking railcar ferry Prince Edward Island began service between Cape Tormentine and a new port constructed a few miles west of Cape Traverse at Carleton Point. This new port was incorporated as Borden in 1919, taking its name from Prime Minister Robert Borden, whose government was responsible for locating the ferry terminal at Carleton Point. During its first year of service the Prince Edward Island made 506 crossing. The ferry was modified in the 1920s to accommodate automobiles in addition to railcars.

As part of the planning for the new port, the government purchased sites in 1917 at a cost of $225 for range lights to help guide marine traffic into the harbour. The Port Borden Range Lights were officially established the following year and were originally equipped with 20-inch reflectors and duplex burners. William Carruthers served as the first keeper of the range lights.

The Port Borden Rear Range Lighthouse, a square, wooden, pyramidal structure, stands 12.8 metres (42 feet) tall from base to vane, while the shorter Port Borden Front Range Lighthouse is just 6.2 metres (22 feet) tall. A gallery supported by iron brackets surrounds the square lantern room of the rear tower.

On June 1, 1997, the Confederation Bridge, known as the Span of Green Gables by some, was opened, and ferry service to Port Borden was discontinued. The Port Borden Range Lights were also taken out of service that year. The rear tower has been relocated to an attractive Marine Park in Borden-Carleton near the foot of the Confederation Bridge, but the front tower remains abandoned and neglected at its last official site.

Keepers: William Carruthers (1917 – 1938), Joseph George McDonald (1938 – at least 1957).


  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, various years.
  2. Binder on the Lighthouses of Prince Edward Island, Carol Livingstone, 2002.

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