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Visit Historic Oregon Lighthouses   by Barbara Pfieffer

Lighthouses in Oregon

The rugged coast of Oregon offers visitors a chance to view and tour some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. In all, Oregon boasts eleven lighthouses along its shorelines. Many of these lighthouses have been restored and are a great way to learn about the history of the state. In the next section each of the eleven lighthouses will be explored in detail, starting from the north of Oregon and down the coast.

Tillamook Rock - located at Cannon Beach

Located about one mile from the coastline, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse can be seen from the shores of Ecola State Park. The construction of this particular lighthouse was completed on January 21, 1881, after two years of extremely grueling and challenging work. The lighthouse was continuously manned by five men, four on duty and one on "liberty" on the mainland. Harsh conditions and violent storms accompanied by large waves sometimes left the men stranded on the rock for extended periods of time without a way to restock their provisions and supplies. Because of the extreme weather constantly bombarding the lighthouse on Tillamook Rock, its costs for upkeep and operations were the most expensive in the nation. On September 10, 1957, owing to the increasingly large price to maintain, the light was shut off and the lighthouse left empty.

Today, the lighthouse is privately owned and has been turned into a site dedicated to housing over a half-million urns of human ashes. It could aptly be called a "cemetery at sea". To view the lighthouse, visit Ecola State Park. The lighthouse is best seen with binoculars as it is quite a distance from the shore.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

With a history much less exciting than other lighthouses, Cape Meares sits 200 feet above the Pacific Coast in Oceanside, Oregon. Its light was first illuminated on January 1, 1890 and could be seen from twenty-one miles away. Cared for by numerous families throughout the years, the last keepers left the lighthouse in 1963 when it was outfitted with a flashing light. There was no longer a need for a human being to physically turn the light off in the morning and on at night. Several years later the lighthouse was taken over by the Oregon State Parks and can now be visited by stopping in to Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint at Cape Meares State Park.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

This amazing lighthouse, illuminated for the first time on August 20, 1873, rises up 93 feet into the air. Boasting the only marble floor of any lighthouse in Oregon, Yaquina Head Lighthouse receives hundreds of thousands of guests per year making it one of the most visited lighthouses in the United States. Ships can see the tower from nineteen miles away as it stands 162 feet above sea level.

The view from the top of this lighthouse is incredible and is worth the large number of spiraling stairs that must be climbed to reach the top. The lighthouse is now a part of the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Newport, Yaquina Bay, was actually only used for a total of three years after being completed on November 3, 1871. This lighthouse was built before Yaquina Head Lighthouse, also found in Newport. As it was left empty for so many years, it was not in good shape when the Oregon State Park Group came in to restore and reopen it in 1974. It is now open to the public at no cost and contains many artifacts and memorabilia from Oregon's maritime history.

Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse

Jim Gibbs, a former keeper of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, was the builder of Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse. He had the lighthouse constructed to resemble the 1898 Fiddle Reef Lighthouse in Vancouver Island. The lighthouse, completed in 1976, was an addition onto Mr. Gibb's private home. It can be seen, towering 110 feet above the Pacific Ocean, from mile post 166 on Oregon's Highway 101, just south of Yachats. Since it is privately owned, there is no public access to the tower.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

The name of this 1894 lighthouse comes from the Spanish explorer Don Bruno de Heceta. It rises 205 feet above the Pacific Ocean and offers spectacular views to visitors from the top. It is located about 12 miles north of Florence right off Highway 101.

Umpqua River Lighthouse

Located in South Reedsport, the Umpqua River Lighthouse light was first illuminated on October 10, 1857. The lighthouse was originally designed and built for the large amount of trade that was expected for this area of Oregon. As luck would have it, the weather destroyed the lighthouse over a period of six years. In 1894, a second lighthouse was built, this time its location was placed well away from the harsh forces of nature and can still be visited today. To view it, take a trip to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, about three miles off of Highway 101, six miles south of Reedsport.

Cape Arago

The lighthouse at Cape Arago cannot be viewed by the public; it is behind the guarded gates of the United States Coast Guard. To view the lighthouse, a high powered camera or binoculars will do the trick. This lighthouse was first lit on November 1, 1866. It was followed by a second and third lighthouse in 1909 and 1934, respectively. Today, only the third tower remains.

Coquille River Lighthouse

Although construction on this beautifully located lighthouse first began in 1891, it wasn't complete and fully lit until February 29, 1896, due to a number of delays in building. In 1939, the automated beacon abolished the need for a keeper at the lighthouse and the house was left empty. The lighthouse was renovated in 1976 by the US Army Corps and the Oregon State Parks after being vacant for 40 years with no care. To see the outside of this lighthouse, the inside is not available for public viewing, visit Bullards Beach State Park, north of Bandon.

Capo Blanco Lighthouse

Sitting high above on a 200 foot cliff, the Capo Blanco Lighthouse towers over the rocky cliffs below. December 20, 1870 marks the day the lighthouse was first lit. Since then it has helped warn ships and their crews of the treacherous coastline on which it sits. The lighthouse is located four miles north of Port Orford and is open to the public.

Port of Brookings Lighthouse

Only the second lighthouse in Oregon to be privately owned, the Port of Brookings Lighthouse was first lit on July 4th, 1997 with the approval of the federal government. Bill Cady had the lighthouse built in 1990 as an addition to his private home. In 1997, the entire structure was relocated to where it is today. Although a private structure, the lighthouse can be viewed from Brookings Harbor.

About the Author

Barbara Pfieffer lives in Oregon and loves it. She shares her information about things to do on an Oregon vacation. Visit her website, Vacation-In-Oregon.com for more information.

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