|Oregon Coast Notes|
|Oregon Coast Lighthouses|
|Oregon Coast Notes - News|
Oregon’s surviving coastal lighthouses are visible, accessible links to the past and are monuments to Oregon’s maritime heritage.
Although unoccupied by resident light keepers since the arrival of modern technology, some of the unique, classic lighthouse structures remain as much a part of Oregon’s rugged coastal landscape as any land form or offshore monolith.
Built on prominent headlands or near major estuaries supporting maritime activity, most of these stations were established by the former U.S. Lighthouse Board between 1870 and 1896, with design and construction aid provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ultimately, the U.S. Coast Guard became the caretaker of the properties and keeper of the lights.
After installing automated beacons in the 1960s, the Coast Guard began transferring its lighthouse holdings to other government agencies. The transfers prompted vigorous restoration efforts to preserve the predominantly brick towers and frame dwellings that once sheltered the light keepers. All nine lighthouses have been named to the National Register of Historic Places, and seven are now open for public inspection and regularly scheduled summer tours.
Lighthouses You Can Tour
Aided by interpretive displays, historical accounts and a little imagination, you can now learn what life was like for the light keepers who lit the way for mariners off Oregon’s perilous coastline. Climb to lantern or tower watch rooms and experience the panoramic sights once enjoyed by the light keepers. Hear the sounds of seabirds and the wind that accompanied their isolation.
Regularly scheduled tours are offered at the Cape Blanco, Heceta Head, Umpqua River, Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head lighthouses. The Cape Meares and Coquille River lighthouses also have public exhibit areas. Special group tours at Cape Meares may be arranged. For information on hours and tours, call the State Park Information Center 1-800-551-6949
Most of Oregon’s lighthouse locations double as excellent wildlife viewpoints. A few lighthouses tower above sites listed among the state’s premier wildlife viewing areas in the Oregon Wildlife Viewing Guide, a product of the National Watchable Wildlife Program. Several lighthouse sites are outstanding whale lookouts and storm watching destinations during late fall, winter and early spring.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
1.2 miles seaward off Tillamook Head south of Seaside. Stands 133 feet above sea level with 62-foot-high tower on basalt rock islet. Exposure to storm waves led to nickname “Terrible Tilly.” Commissioned in 1881 to help guide ships entering Columbia River. Replaced by whistle buoy in 1957. Only privately owned Oregon coast lighthouse on National Register of Historic Places; once used as a columbarium, a storage place for ashes of the deceased. No public access. Oregon Coast Trail on Tillamook Head between Ecola State Park and Seaside offers closest views; also visible from park’s Indian Beach parking lot. Ecola State Park Day-use fee: $3 per vehicle, annual permit, or Oregon Pacifc Coast Passport.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
In Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, 10 miles west of Tillamook and U.S. 101. Stands 217 feet above ocean; 38-foot tower is shortest on Oregon coast. Illuminated in 1890; replaced by automatic beacon in 1963. Trails lead from main parking area to lighthouse and viewpoints overlooking offshore islets inhabited by Steller sea lions and nesting seabirds. Viewpoints are also prime places for whale watching. Open daily, April-October, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 503-842-2244 for more information on the lighthouse and special tours. Visitor services include a small gift shop.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Off U.S. 101, 3 miles north of Newport. 93-foot-high tower is tallest on Oregon coast; stands 162 feet above sea level. Illuminated in 1873. Automated light serves as aid to navigation along seacoast and at entrance to Yaquina Bay. Managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, which offers close-up views of seabird nesting area. Natural area exhibits, trails to tide pools accessible year-round. Call (541) 574-3100 for current visitor information. Entrance fee: $7 per vehicle, $15 Yaquina Head Annual Pass, Oregon Pacific Coast Passport, or federal interagency pass.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
In Yaquina (Yah-kwih-nah) Bay State Recreation Site on U.S. 101 at north end of the Yaquina Bay bridge in Newport. Second oldest standing lighthouse structure on Oregon coast. In original service only from 1871 to 1874 before the commissioning of the nearby brighter Yaquina Head Light eliminated its necessity. It was re-lit and recognized as a privately maintained aid to navigation by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1996. The lens is 42 feet above ground level and 161 feet above sea level. Open as a museum daily, except for holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving. May-September hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. October-April hours are noon to 4 p.m. Call 541-265-5679 or see www.yaquinalights.org for information on tours and special events.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
12 miles north of Florence. On west side of 1,000-foot-high Heceta Head, 205 feet above ocean. Light at top of 56-foot tower illuminated in 1894; automated beacon, seen 21 miles from land, rated as strongest light on the Oregon coast. Historic assistant light keeper’s house (Heceta House; built 1893) offers bed and breakfast rentals and facilities for group events; call (541) 547-3696. Offshore rocks and headlands provide abundant seabird nesting sites. Trail to lighthouse and assistant light keeper’s house leads from the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Viewpoint parking area. The lighthouse is open for tours daily, May-September, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday-Monday during March, April and October. Year-round group tours offered; call 541-547-3416. Day-use fee: $3 per vehicle, annual permit, or Oregon Pacific Coast Passport.
Umpqua River Lighthouse
6 miles south of Reedsport above entrance to Winchester Bay and adjacent to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. An earlier structure, commissioned on north spit of river in 1857, was the first lighthouse sited on Oregon coast. It fell into the river in 1861 after sand eroded under foundation. Current structure with 65-foot tower overlooks sand dunes from 165 feet elevation on south side of the bay. Identical to Heceta Head Lighthouse; light also illuminated in 1894. Lens emits distinctive red and white automated flashes. Structure and museum maintained by Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department; call 541-271-4631. Visitor fee: $3 adults; $2 ages 7 - 16; under 6 free.
Cape Arago Lighthouse
12 miles southwest of cities of North Bend and CoosBay off U.S. 101. Stands 100 feet above ocean on an islet just off Gregory Point. Light atop 44-foot-high tower illuminated in 1934. Although newest in terms of service, earlier structures were built on site in 1866 and 1908, both succumbing to weather and erosion. Listen for unique fog horn. Not open to the public. An overlook ¼ mile south of the Sunset Bay campground entrance offers a good view.
Coquille River Lighthouse
In Bullards Beach State Park, 2 miles north of Bandon on the north bank of Coquille River. Commissioned in 1896 to guide mariners across a dangerous bar. Decommissioned in 1939 following improvements to river channel and other navigational aids. Restored in 1979 as an interpretive center. Solar-powered system operates light atop 40-foot octagonal tower. Open daily May-October and Wednesday-Sunday in April. Call 541-347-2209 for information.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse
Towering above the westernmost point in Oregon, 9 miles north of Port Orford off U.S. 101. Oldest standing lighthouse on Oregon coast; commissioned in 1870 to aid shipping generated by gold mining and lumber industry. Clifftop location is 245 feet above ocean; conical tower rises 59 feet. Automated equipment installed by U.S. Coast Guard in 1980. Stands above highly rated wildlife viewing area. Visitor services and tours cooperatively managed by BLM, OPRD, local Native American tribes and the Friends of Cape Blanco; call 541-756-0100, or 541-332-6774, for more information. Open April-October, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.