A few hundred yards off the shore of Folly Beach, South Carolina sits the Morris Island Lighthouse. Once an island unto its self, with several out buildings, all that remains of Morris Island is the horizontally striped lighthouse. In order to prevent the nearby Charleston Harbor from closing, several jetties were formed in 1889 to keep channels open, causing severe erosion. Morris Island was one such casualty.
Patterned after the Bodie Lighthouse in North Carolina, the Morris Island Lighthouse has wide horizontal stripes that are dark grey and white.
Standing nearly 160 feet tall the lighthouse is viewable from the bridge to Folly Beach and the northeast part of Folly Beach from East Ashley Street. There is a short walk from the parking area to a good viewing point and the view from the beach is said to be particularly good during sunset, when the low sun casts a glow on the lighthouse.
Some hotels or boat charters in the area offer low tide boat rides to the lighthouse but entry into the actual structure is strictly forbidden, given its run down condition. During low tide there is enough sand to walk around on and people can collect shells or sand dollars. It is not recommended to try to walk or swim out to the lighthouse from Folly Beach during any tide, low or high. There are very strong currents and rip tides that are dangerous for swimmers. Visitors attempting to access the Morris Island Lighthouse by swimming or wading have drowned in their attempts to do so.
Although no longer lighting up the sky as lighthouses are intended to do there are restoration and conservation efforts underway to keep the Morris Island Lighthouse a part of the historic coastal South Carolina landscape. Instead, the Sullivan Island Lighthouse is lit.
Through the years the lighthouse has withstood hurricanes and earthquakes but it is rapidly facing the tests of time and development. There are currently two groups working to keep the lighthouse intact: the Morris Island Coalition and Save the Light.
The Morris Island Coalition is made up of civic, conservation and preservation groups from all over the country. They aim to help the lighthouse become recognized as a national historic treasure that is in serious jeopardy. The Coalition fights residential and commercial development that is harmful to migratory birds and will further cause erosion damage.
Save the Light, a non-profit organization that relies on contributions and membership of the public, has undertaken the planning, fund raising and execution of various preservation projects for the Morris Island Lighthouse. They began as a group of concerned citizens and ended up buying Morris Island, sold it to the state of South Carolina, and now lease the island for their preservation and conservation efforts.
With the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, Save the Light has undertaken construction projects to protect the lighthouse. They have raised over 4.5 million dollars and completed a cofferdam in 2008 that will help to prevent further erosion of Morris Island. There are additional projects in the works by Save the Light with the Army Corps of Engineers.