Attracted by the plentiful runs of Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon in the river of Selkirk, N.Y., early settlers of the 1800s dubbed it the Salmon River. During the inspection for the potential construction of piers, a government engineer then determined the river mouth had enough depth and breadth for anchoring around 30 ships in the early 1830s. Thus, the Salmon River Lighthouse came to be.
Just after completing the construction of the lighthouse, two piers were built with lengths of over a thousand feet at the mouth of the Salmon River in order to improve the harbor. The plan was to connect the Salmon River to the Hudson River with a canal via Lake Oneida and the Erie Canal.
This would have linked Selkirk to some major markets, but they never ended up building the canal. As a result, dreams for Selkirk becoming a major port faded away and the Salmon River Lighthouse was deactivated in 1859.
Although the early lighthouse ended in misfortune for Selkirk, it turned out to be a blessing for lighthouse historians. If it had remained active for just a few more years, the likelihood of its lantern room being upgraded would have been certainty, with larger panes of glass and thinner sashes that blocked less light. Now Salmon River Lighthouse has one of the few surviving birdcage lantern rooms.
Then on August 6, 1989, after a Coast Guard-approved solar light was installed in the historic lantern room, the lighthouse was reactivated as a Class II navigation aid listed as Port Ontario Light. Since then, new owners took over the marina in 2014 and it is still an active lighthouse on Lake Ontario.