The Oswego West Pier Lighthouse
Support this site NYFalls.com relies on donations to pay the bills and add more content. support us with Patreon or Donate with Paypal.
Gorgeous Nature Scenes from across New York State Shop prints, cards, mugs, stickers, shirts, more

Location / Directions / Maps

Location: On Lake Ontario; including Breitbeck Park, past Wright’s Landing, to the Maritime Museum on pier;
city of Oswego; Oswego County; New York.

Maps: Google MapTopographic; Interactive map

GPS Coordinates:

  • Breitbeck Park parking area (west): N 43.46060 / W 76.52483
  • Breitbeck Park parking area (east): N 43.46169 / W 76.52268
  • Bell Tower: N 43.46224 /W 76.52287
  • Splash Pad, Snack Bar, Mini Golf: N 43.46053 / W 76.52447
  • Roadside parking near marina: N 43.46207 / W 76.52032
  • Maritime Museum: N 43.46429 / W 76.51559

Directions from East/West: Take State Route 104 into Oswego and then turn north onto W 8th St. Follow it all the way to Breitbeck Park. The parking lot should be right there.

Directions from the South: Heading up NY-481 will be the fastest, but NY-48 is more or less the same route (just on the other side of the river). Once in Oswego, turn left (west) onto NY-104, then make a right (north) onto W 8th St. Follow it to the park.

Or use Google Maps.

Parking: There’s plenty of parking along the waterfront here. Keep in mind that some city events, such as Oswego Harborfest will require you to park elsewhere. Breitbeck Park has two lots off Lake St: one at the center of the park and one on the west end. On the east side of the park, there are a few dozen roadside spaces near the Civic Center/Music Hall – some with good views of the Marina. You can also park at the marina lot off of Lake St, but be careful not to use any trailer spaces during boating season. Spaces are more limited on the pier near the maritime museum: 8 near the canal dredge exhibit and about 20 at the museum itself. During Harborfest, I typically park along a residential side street a few blocks south of Breitbeck Park. Anything closer is a fantasy.

A view looking west along the shoreline of Lake Ontario towards the Oswego Power Station

YouTube video

Weather

OSWEGO WEATHER

Information / Accessibility / Accommodations

Typical Seasons/Hours: Breitbeck Park is open from dawn until dusk daily.

Wright’s Landing Marina’s boat launch facilities are open 4am to 8pm from May 1 to Oct 15. The parking area and Oswego Trail adjacent to the Marina is typically always open.

The H. Lee White Maritime Museum on the city pier is open 7 days a week 1-5pm, with extended hours, 10am-5pm, in July and August.

Admission: Breitbeck Park is free to visit. Reserving the pavilion or Bell Tower area carries a fee. The splash pad is free. The mini golf and cornhole costs a few bucks. Parking in the lot here, along Lake St, and in the Marina lot is free.

Parking at the Maritime Museum is also free. Admission to the H. Lee White Maritime Museum is $12 for adults, $6 ages 13-17, and children 12 years of age or younger are free.

Best time to visit: Summer weekend afternoons to ensure the various shops and restaurants within walking distance are open. The last weekend in July to experience Oswego Harborfest.

Time: A few hours or more. Pack a picnic or plan on visiting a local restaurant or cafe while you visit, and plan on visiting the Maritime Museum to make a full day.

Handicap accessibility: Breitbeck Park has a series of level paved pathways that offer great views of the lake and access to the pavilions, playgrounds, splash park and more. There are walkways leading past the Marina and to the pier and Maritime Museum. The Museum itself is accessible, but tours to the lighthouse and access to vessels are not.

Pets: Allowed in the park and walkways when on a leash. Not allowed in the Maritime Museum.

Swimming: Unfortunately, the City of Oswego has no public beaches for swimming in Lake Ontario. Some folks, especially students of SUNY Oswego used to swim at Flat Rock on the west side of the power plant, but as of 2022 the spot was closed and patrolled. The closest public beach for people looking to cool off will be to the west at Fair Haven Beach State Park.

Boat launch and facilities: Wright’s Landing Marina has two concrete ramps, a one-ton hoist, pump out station, restrooms & showers. There are slips for 223 vessels. Hand-launch craft can also be launched from the Marina.

Fishing: Wright’s Landing Marina is also a hub for fishing on the lake. It features a fish cleaning station and licenses can be obtained at the office.  A variety of fishing charters launch from the marina here.

Camping: There are no camping facilities along the lake here. Camping is available to the west at Sunset RV Park or Fair Haven State Park.

Accommodations: Breitbeck Park features lake vistas, restrooms, picnic facilities, adult outdoor fitness center, walking/jogging trails, a splash park for kids, miniature golf, a snack bar, game courts, and playground.

Wright’s Point Marina features kayak and paddle boat rentals, boat launches, slips, cleaning station, pump out station, restrooms, showers, picnic facilities, and fishing licenses.

The Maritime Museum features tours of the Oswego Lighthouse, 2 floors of exhibits, a gift shop, a restroom, and several vessels on display. The Derrick Canal Boat exhibit, located south of the museum, is free to visit.

Shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and more can be found down W 1st and 2nd streets.

Adirondack chairs on a viewing platform at Breitbeck Park in Oswego

Description

Oswego was long considered a premier port along Lake Ontario, competing with Buffalo for business for half a century. The Oswego River, which forms to the south from the junction of the Seneca and Oneida rivers, cuts through the city and empties into the lake at a district filled with shops, restaurants, lingering industrial complexes, museums, and a patchwork of parks, marinas, and historical sites. On the east side of the river at the lake is Fort Ontario. On the west you’ll find two large municipal piers, a massive marina, and Breitbeck Park, one of the most beautiful community lakeside parks in the region. Breakwaters lead a half mile out into the lake to the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse, built in 1934. While there is plenty more to the city of Oswego, this guide covers a small, but beautiful slice of Lake Ontario that makes for an easy day trip and offers up some memorable views of the lake as well as a dip into some of the lake culture and heritage of the place.

Breitbeck Park is a small, but superb, lakeside park built on a slope over the west harbor. The well-manicured park features casual winding walkways that take visitors to all the observation decks and amenities. Ample seating caters to relaxing views of the lake and lighthouse, and a newly added snack bar, splash park for kids, and mini golf are a favorite for families. To the west are the towering smokestacks of the Oswego Harbor Power Plant (which runs, rarely, but on steam from oil and natural gas fuel).

To the east is the Wrights Landing Marina, a public boat launch and fishing hub. Here, visitors can launch craft, rent kayaks and paddleboats, and do all sorts of fishing stuff. Several professional fishing charters operate out of this marina and it can be packed during hot summer weekends. Just beyond the marina are two large piers. The eastern-most pier (known as the “International Pier”) was under construction as of this writing.  There are plans to rehabilitate its construction and turn it into a pedestrian walkway. At the river, another pier houses an old steam-powered Erie Canal dredge that now houses a small museum. Further down is the larger H. Lee White Maritime Museum, featuring two stories of local artifacts and records dedicated to shipping and navigation along Lake Ontario and beyond.

Sadly, there are no public swimming beaches in Oswego, but there is a strong and walkable riverfront featuring several shops, cafes, restaurants, and sweet shops.

The Oswego West Pier Lighthouse
The view of Lake Ontario from Breitbeck Park in Oswego.
A view looking out over the Oswego harbor on Lake Ontario

Hiking / Walking Trails

Difficulty: Easy. Paved paths and sidewalks.

Distance: 1.5 to 2.5 miles depending on the path you take. Our recommended walk is about 2 miles.

Markings: Paved pathways and street signs.

Description:

  1. Start out at Breitbeck Park and wander the paths here taking in the view of the lake and Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse. Don’t miss the splash park and mini golf in the southwest corner.
  2. Walk past the Marina via the lakeside Oswego Trail or just walk east on Lake St.
  3. Turn left onto W 1st St. Pass the old canal dredge, which is now a museum on the left. Continue down the pier to the Maritime Museum.
  4. Turn around and go back the way you came or continue further south down W 1st St. to shops and eateries.

Maps: See the interactive map below.

A view of the crumbling breakwater at Oswego harbor
Canal Dredge, Oswego
Wrights Landing Marina on Lake Ontario at Oswego, NY

History

Books can be, and have been, written about the history of the city, so there’s little reason for me to spend the time writing a half-assed version of it here. I’ll be brief and relevant to the sites in this guide, and hopefully entertaining, in my approach below.

Oswego Beginnings

The name “Oswego” comes from the Iroquois “os-we-go” meaning “pouring out place” in reference to the Oswego Lake Outlet in the middle of the city.

In 1722, the British established a palisaded trading post here, which eventually became Fort Oswego. In 1755, they built the Fort of Six Nations on the other side of the river, which eventually became known as Fort Ontario. Read more about the history of that fort here.

The harbor here remained natural until the government installed breakwaters from 1927-1929, forming what was called the inner harbor. From 1871-1874, a new set of breakwaters was installed on the west side, expanding the harbor to approximately its present day dimensions.

Oswego remained a small village up until the arrival of the Erie Canal in 1829, when the Oswego River was widened, locks were installed to take barges up “Oswego Falls” (which is now a dam) and developed to allow traffic from the major east-west canal system to travel north to the port on Lake Ontario. By its incorporation as a city in 1828, the population had grown 2-fold due to its role as a shipping hub for Upstate NY. Prior to the canal, the harbor housed a max of 180 tons of vessels at any given time. Upon the completion of the canal enhancements to the port, in 1929, Oswego harbor saw 37,000 tons of vessels.

The Marina

The area that is now the parking and offices for the Wrights Landing Marina and the Coast Guard Station was occupied by Ontario Iron Works, which was established in 1832 and specialized in steam engine parts/boilers. In the late 1800s through the 1950s, Oswego was home to several iron works.

Breitbeck Park

The land that comprises the park didn’t exist until the 1900s and this was all lake. At the time Oswego was an industrial shipping hub, the harbor break walls started at approximately 3rd St at the present day marina. West of here, Lake Street hugged the shoreline pretty closely. The installation of the west breakwaters from 1871-1874 caused sediment buildup along the shore here, which was further enhanced by occasional dumping of harbor dredging. When the power plant next door began operation in 1940, it burned coal, which was spilled along the plot of landfill that now houses much of the park.

H. Lee White Maritime Museum

The museum resides in the former office building (which also served as quarters, workshop, and powerhouse) for the New York State Grain Elevator. The elevator was constructed in 1925 from concrete and local beach stone and has a capacity of 1,000,000 bushels. It was situated on the north end of the office building, along with a firehouse (demolished in 1999). The grain elevator operated well into the 1980s and often loaded barley for shipment to a Genesee Brewery malthouse in Sodus. As grain shipments took advantage of the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway, business through the Oswego elevator disappeared by 1990. The elevator was demolished in 1998.

H. Lee White was born in Oswego in 1912. He obtained his law degree from Cornell University and then Doctor of Law from Syracuse University and became a partner at a Binghamton law firm.  In 1940, he joined the US Navy, serving for the Secretary of the Navy, working his way up to Commander by 1846. In 1942, he founded Marine Transport Lines, a commercial steamship service, that ran supplies during the war. From 1953 to 1954 he served as secretary of the US Air Force. After, he joined Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in NYC and eventually became a senior partner.

Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse

The west pier lighthouse, 1 of 4 lighthouses (and many beacons) to serve the harbor was fabricated out of steel in Buffalo with a 13 ft tall tower, and installed in 1934. It replaced a hexagonal stone light constructed in 1880. It’s the only surviving lighthouse in Oswego today (although several navigational beacons are still scattered about). With a 20 square ft foundation, its basement (which is built into the breakwater) housed electric and foghorn equipment. The first floor has a radio room, living room, kitchen, and bedroom. It was automated in 1968. Today, tours to the lighthouse are offered through the H. Lee White Maritime Museum.

A historical diagram showing the changes to Oswego Harbor over the centuries.
A vintage postcard view of Oswego harbor and the lighthouse
New York State Grain Elevator and Offices, 1942
New York State Grain Elevator and Offices, 1942 (Collier, John, Jr., photographer)
An illustration from 1855 of Owego and its harbor
An 1855 illustration of the city of Oswego by Smith Brothers & Co.
A vintage photo of Oswego's west pier, 1880 stone lighthouse, and Fort Ontario in the background.
The 1880 stone lighthouse, and Fort Ontario in the background (1900).
The H. Lee White Maritime Museum in Oswego, NY.
Inside the Derrick Boat (Canal Dredge) a part of the H. Lee White Maritime Museum.

Oswego Waterfront Interactive Map

Fishing

Fishing is allowed at several areas along the shoreline. The most popular spot is on the east side of Breitbeck Park facing the marina and pier.

Lake Ontario Parks and Beaches Guides.

More Lake Ontario Parks & Beaches

Find a new summer hangout spot or place to swim in our comprehensive guide to Lake Ontario Parks and Beaches in New York State.

Interesting Stuff

Oswego Harborfest

This festival runs the last weekend of July and features food and craft vendors, musical performances, a midway, and a spectacular fireworks display over the lake. An average of 75,000 people come to the ‘fest each year.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site

This American historic bastion site is located on the other side of the river and features some original structures, recreations of period fort rooms, demonstrations, recreations, and fantastic views of  Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario Media

Oswego Harborfest Videos

YouTube video

Photography Tips

Sunsets

  • Because of the angle of the shoreline, Oswego is a good spot to catch summer sunsets over the lake.

Riverfront

  • W 1st St has several historic buildings from the City’s shipping era, many of which now house modern shops and eateries. It’s worth a walk for some architectural and street photography.

More tips

Looking west along the shoreline of Lake Ontario across Breitbeck park toward the Oswego Power Station

Who to Contact

City of Oswego Parks & Recreation
(315) 343-5055

H. Lee White Maritime Museum
(315) 342-0480
hlwmm.org

A sign for the H. Lee White Maritime Museum on 1st St in Oswego
x