Restoration of the Bear River Lighthouse
and creation of the Smith’s Cove Lighthouse Park
The Bear River Lighthouse sits at the mouth of Bear River in Smith’s Cove, Nova Scotia. It is an original structure that was built in 1905 and was the first and only lighthouse on this site. It has a rich history and served as a functioning lighthouse to guide marine traffic in the Annapolis Basin and into and out of Bear River until it was decommissioned. In addition to being a designated Municipal Heritage Property it is also a designated Heritage Lighthouse under the Federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act as of February of 2015 for its support of the development of the scallop fishing and lumber industries, two significant economic drivers for the nearby town of Digby.
The Bear River Lighthouse is a wooden square timbered tower with sloping sides measuring 9.8 meters (32 feet) in height and stands on an embankment 45 feet above the high-water mark and about 100 feet back from the water’s edge. The Lighthouse was automated in 1973 and decommissioned in 2001. After the Lighthouse was decommissioned the site became overgrown by scrub brush and trees and the Lighthouse fell into disrepair. The Smith’s Cove community was interested in preserving the Lighthouse but it would take almost 20 years for the ownership of the Lighthouse to finally transfer to the Municipality of Digby in the spring of 2021.
In November of 2021 the Smith’s Cove Historical Society entered into a Licence Agreement with the Municipality of Digby for the restoration of the lighthouse and development of the lands on which the lighthouse is located. Our vision is the creation of the Smith’s Cove Lighthouse Park, a community green space for the use and enjoyment of our residents and visitors to the area. The Society started fundraising for the Project in late 2021 and raised sufficient funds to complete Phase 1 of the project (restoration of the Lighthouse and clearing the land of 20 years of over growth) and to begin Phase 2 of the project which involves setting walking trails, landscaping and the installation of seating for visitors while visiting the park. Phase 3 of the project will see additional landscaping and installation of information boards about the Lighthouse and its keepers.
We were fortunate to receive a donated decommissioned Coast Guard Light which was installed in the Lighthouse on October 14, 2022. The Lighthouse now once again casts a light for a few hours every evening for the first time in 30 plus years!
The Park is located adjacent to the eastern terminus of the Digby Trails system which will provide access to the site for walkers, runners, cyclists, horseback riders and ATVs. Public parking is currently under construction at the Old Bear River Train Station site. From there it is a short 10 minute walk along the rail bed trail to the Lighthouse.