Salmon River Lighthouse & Marina, Pulaski, New York

Preserving A Unique History

Published in the June 2019 Issue February 2020 Feature Braden Lee

The Salmon River has a deep, rich footprint in U.S. history which goes back for centuries. And anyone who hears the name of the river can safely assume that it also shares a deep connection with a particular fish – salmon. In fact, the overwhelming number of Atlantic salmon was the main economic attraction of the area during its early developments in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Just a skip and a hop away from the Salmon River is Lake Ontario, which also offers world class lake trout and brown trout fishing. The fishing found in Lake Ontario and the Salmon River have made this area an absolute global hotspot for fishing. And many are finding their exhilarating fishing experience deepened and enriched with a stay at the Salmon River Lighthouse & Marina, located right at the mouth of the Salmon River.

This 24-slip marina and its rental properties are closely tended to by the marina’s owners, the Barnell and Ellis families. The biggest attraction at the marina is the Selkirk lighthouse, which was originally constructed in 1838. This lighthouse became a designated landmark in 1976 by the Oswego County Heritage Foundation and then in 1979 the U.S. National Register of Historic Places admitted the lighthouse property as well. Guests also enjoy the recently-renovated lighthouse which still has the 1838 original steel; copper work, stonework, and that everything is in excellent condition.

“People love the uniqueness of it and the fact it is 181 years old.” Abe Ellis continued, “When people walk in they can see the original 1838 flooring.”

There are about 29 or 30 lighthouses along the Seaway Trail running from Lake Erie to the St. Lawrence river, but only about two or three of these lighthouses offer overnight accommodations with this marina being one of them. Beyond that, it’s an extremely rare birdcage lighthouse design and an operational birdcage lighthouse is almost non-existent in the United States.

“We are one of two left,” Ellis declared. “If you do a Google search for bird cage lighthouses we’ll show up on Wikipedia.”

Guests have the option of sleeping in the fully operational lighthouse, which sleeps about six to eight people, or one of their five cottages, four of which can sleep about six people and one of which can sleep 10. Three of these cottages are right on the marina property and the other two are right across the river.

Much of the reason the marina is in such great shape is the change in ownership which happened in 2014. Prior to this, the lighthouse and marina saw many years of decline from weathering, neglect, and a few calamities. One of these being an explosion on the property in 1987 which had no fatalities but destroyed two cottages and the lighthouse windows. The other calamity was a water release from the nearby Salmon River dam in 2010 which destroyed roughly five of the marina’s docks. The marina remained in this condition until the new change in ownership.

“We decided we wanted to try to do something to bring it back to its better days.” Ellis remarked. “So we started discussions with its owners at the time in 2013 and we were finally able to purchase the property in April of 2014.”

The Barnell and Ellis families have made it a goal to repair the damages of the property, improve the modern-day conveniences, and preserve its history after acquiring ownership. Their renovations have yielded the results they were looking for. Today the marina property is in better shape than ever with a family-run ownership, all-new appliances, functioning facilities, new docks, a state-of-the-art boat ramp, and much more. Abe and Kathy Ellis live right there on the property 24/7 to keep the marina in tip-top shape. When the marina isn’t in season, the Ellis family lives just ten minutes away.

On the docks, the marina sells ValvTect-enhanced ethanol-free gas and diesel fuel to boaters.

You can dock your own while you’re there, but even if you don’t have a boat, the marina has 11 charter captains operating eight different charter boats from the marina whose services are available for a visit to Lake Ontario as well as the Salmon River. Fishing boats as well as kayak and canoe rentals are available, too.

The Salmon River Lighthouse & Marina is surrounded by a vibrant, tiny village with all sorts of shopping and things to do. And just a 15 minute drive away, tucked behind some trees, is the Salmon River Falls Unique Area, which encompasses 112 acres of land, 110-foot high water falls, and a 3,000-foot long scenic gorge.

And with the surrounding attractions and out-of-this world fishing, it makes sense that thousands of fishermen find their way to this area like clockwork.

For More Information

Salmon River Lighthouse and Marina


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