There are twelve lighthouses that can be seen or visited along the Oregon Coast. We will start at Astoria and work our way down to Brookings. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Lightship Columbia WLV 604
When the LV 50 Lightship was towed to the Columbia River Station in 1892, it became the first active lightship station on the west coast. Over the years, several more modern ships replaced LV 50, then, in 1979 the ship was replaced by a large navigational buoy. The last ship to serve (WLV 604) is now docked at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria and in 1993 the buoy joined it. Location: the museum is located in Astoria, 20 miles up the Columbia from the lightship’s original location.
You’ll notice this lighthouse as a rock that rises about a mile out to sea. Buffeted by sea and wind it seems to cling to the rocky surface. A lighthouse engineer first boated out to the rock in 1879 to determine if a lighthouse could stand there. Seemingly against all odds, the first surveyors accessed the site by jumping from a rocking boat onto the rock but it was hard to find local skilled workers for the construction after a mason was swept into the sea early on. Fighting the elements and a sixteen day storm that nearly took their lives they prevailed and the lighthouse, nicknamed “Terrible Tilly,” was lit for the first time on January 21, 1881. The worst storm in history nearly destroyed the lighthouse in 1934 and smashed the lens which was never re-lit. It was replaced by a red whistle buoy, anchored one mile seaward of the rock. In 1957 the last log entry was made and the lighthouse closed. It was sold to private bidders over the years and even became a columbarium where people could pay to have their human ashes left.This ghostly structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Location: One mile west of Tillamook Head, can be seen from Ecola State Park
This lighthouse sits 200 feet atop a cliff at the north end of the beautiful 20-mile Three Capes Scenic Loop along the Oregon coast. The cape was originally called Cape Lookout by explorer Captain John Meares in 1788 but due to a nautical error the name was put on another cape 10 miles south so in 1857 it was renamed Cape Meares. The tower construction began in 1888. It is made of sheet iron lined with bricks and is the only one of its kind on the Oregon coast. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1963 when an automated beacon was installed on a concrete blockhouse a few feet from the tower. The new light can be seen 25 miles at sea. There was talk of removing the lighthouse but local citizens rallied and funds were allocated to restore the lighthouse which was opened to the public on Memorial Day, 1980. Location: in Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, about 10 miles west of Tillamook
Construction work began in the fall of 1871 but was often delayed due to the tempestuous Oregon winters. Finally, the light shone for the first time on August 20, 1873. Yaquina Head is the tallest tower on the Oregon coast, standing 93 feet tall. The light shines 162 feet above the ocean and can be seen nineteen miles out to sea. This lighthouse has always been popular with visitors and was considered one of the best maintained lighthouses on the West Coast. For many years it was closed to the public, then, in 1993 the Coast Guard turned it over to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and visitors were once again allowed to climb the 114 stairs to the tower. It was restored in 2006 and is only open to the public during daylight hours. Location: one mile west of Agate Beach
Standing on a hill overlooking the northern side of the entrance to Yaquina Bay, the lighthouse was built in 1871 to guide traffic into the bay. A couple years later it was decided it would be better to put a coastal light at Yaquina Head, four miles north. The house was empty for many years and then used as crew quarters for U.S. service personnel. In 1948, the Lincoln County Historical Society was formed with the purpose of saving the lighthouse but it wasn’t until 1956 that the lighthouse was finally dedicated as a historical site. Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places and part of the Oregon State Parks Department. In 1996 the light was re-lit and the Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses now assists in managing it and offers tours of the house, which is furnished with period pieces. Location: Yaquina Bay State Park in Newport
Cleft of the Rock (Cape Perpetua)
Cape Perpetua was first discovered and named by Captain James Cook in 1778. The privately owned lighthouse was built in 1976 by former lighthouse keeper Jim Gibbs. Made from historic lighthouse pieces, it is a working official navigational aid. Location: at milepost 166 just off Highway 101, 1.8 miles south of Yachats. Not open to the public, but can be viewed from a pullout on the highway.
Named for a Spanish explorer who noted this area in 1775, Heceta Head Lighthouse stands high on a bluff, 150 feet above the sea, offering spectacular views to all who visit, making it one of the most popular in the U. S. Construction of the lighthouse began in 1892. The 56 foot tower is the most powerful light along the Oregon coast and can be seen 21 miles out to sea – only stopped by the curvature of the earth.The state parks department maintains the lighthouse and today it is part of Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint, which includes the park and cove. Currently the lighthouse is undergoing restoration and will remain closed for up to two years. Location: off Highway 101, twelve miles north of Florence, look for the road to Devils Elbow State Park
An 1849 search for potential lighthouse locations along the Oregon/Washington coast produced a vote for a beacon marking the head of the Umpqua River. Where the river and ocean collided a hazard was created for ships docking to collect the precious lumber. Construction began in 1856 and though hampered by local Indians, who protested the building, the lens was lit in 1857. After years of storms and floods the tower fell in 1864 and a replacement was not completed until 1894. This time the 65 foot tower was built further inland on a headland above the mouth of the river. This site is the furthest from a river or ocean of all lighthouses along the Oregon coast. Today the Fresnel light is still shining and is managed by Douglas County along with the Umpqua River Lighthouse Museum. Guided tours are offered March through December. Location: on a slope overlooking the entrance to the Umpqua River and surrounded by Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, six miles south of Reedsport
Once home to the Coos Indians, Cape Arago now houses the third lighthouse to be built at that location – the first, built in 1866 and the final one in 1934. Originally accessible only by boat, a cable tram was built in 1891 after several wooden bridges washed out over the years. Recently the land and lighthouse was transferred to the Confederated tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians with the stipulation that the lighthouse be available to the public for educational, park, recreational, cultural, or historic preservation. At the present, it can only be viewed from a distance. Location: south of Coos Bay, seen from Sunset Bay State Park
The Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean in the town of Bandon. The bar formed by the interaction of river and ocean created an obstacle for ships so a jetty was created followed by the Coquille River Lighthouse in 1896 at the river’s mouth. The top of Rackleff Rock was leveled for the base and local stone was cut to form the foundation. The fire of
1936 consumed most of the towns 500 buildings but the lighthouse was spared. In 1939 an automated beacon was installed at the end of the south jetty and the lighthouse was abandoned for twenty-four years until Bullards Beach State Park was created and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse. After its restoration, the lighthouse was opened to the public with tours. Location: look for the entrance to Bullards Beach State Park just north of Bandon before you cross the Coquille River Bridge.
Spanish explorers named this landmark after the chalky “White Cape.” The land was cleared of trees and the lighthouse completed in 1869 – standing 200 feet atop a cliff that juts out along the coastline. Later, a ranch was built which is now Cape Blanco State Park, and the home, a two-story Victorian built in 1898 (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is open to the public for tours. The lighthouse was restored in 2003. Visitors are allowed to ascend the spiral staircase to the lantern room. Location: four miles north of Port Orford, six miles off Highway 101, look for the sign between milepost 296 and 297
This privately built and owned lighthouse was approved by the federal government and first lit in 1999. The newest lighthouse in the U.S., it is perched on the corner of a 100 foot cliff. Location: above the port of Brookings Harbor
For complete history, ghost stories and more check out the complete articles at:
Pelican Bay pic courtesy of Bruce & Suzanne Watkins
Cleft of Rock pic and other links courtesy of Lighthouse Friends