Sunday, June 14, 2015

Oregon Lights

It has been a little while since my last post, the reason being that my brother and his wife left their palatial estate on Whidbey Island in Washington and drove down to Oregon to visit us on our travels.  Here you can see them enjoying smoked spare ribs and corn on the cob at our campground picnic area with our somewhat less than palatial estate parked in the background.  You can tell that I am playing the host because I have my jolly "entertaining face" on.
Jolly host shares BBQ with out of state guests.
Linda wanted to visit some lighthouses while they were here.  Lighthouse visiting is some kind of a thing in Oregon, I'm not sure why.  There are 11 lighthouses along the Oregon coast.  There are 30 in California, but no one ever says "Hey, lets drive out to California and look at the lighthouses!"  When we have come to Oregon in the past I have gone to lighthouses and been impressed but then we went and visited the Great Lakes.  There are over 300 lighthouses scattered around the Great Lakes.  Michigan alone has 150 of them.  Back there they are not impressed by Oregon's 11 lights.  But at least visiting the lighthouses of Oregon is something that is doable without investing half your life in it. 

Here you can see Lyle and Linda visiting the Cape Meares light.  It was named after Capt. John Meares who was the first European to sail into Tillamook Bay,  probably looking for cheese.  This is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon, standing only 39 feet tall.  Of course, it is built 217 feet up a cliff, so the building itself didn't need to be that tall.  What, you can't see them?  Look a little closer. 

There they are standing in front of the lighthouse's gigantic Fresnel lens.  The light had 4 red panels and 4 clear panels and a weighted mechanism just like a grandfather clock would rotate the whole thing producing 30 seconds of white light followed by 5 seconds of red.  Each light on the coast had its own combination of timing and color which allowed navigators to tell which one they were looking at in the dark.  A 200 lb. weight would rotate the light for 2.5 hours, then the lighthouse keeper had to go and wind it back up again.  Every 2.5 hours.  All day and all night, 365 days a year.  What a fun job.  The light originally ran on a big five wick oil lamp that was visible for 21 miles out to sea on a clear night.

This is the Yaquina Bay light that sits at the south end of Newport.  In the 1870s, this was the busiest harbor between San Francisco and the Puget Sound.  As you can see, the light is built right on top of the keepers house.  This is the only lighthouse in Oregon with this configuration, though it was not uncommon in other areas.  This light initially operated for only three years before the light at Yaquina Head, 3 miles to the north, made it obsolete and the light was turned off.  The house, however, continued to be used for years as living quarters for the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers before the area was purchased by the Highway Commission for a state park.  This lighthouse has been scheduled for demolition several times since 1946 but each time angry citizens rose up and blocked the move.  It is now designated as a National Historic Site and was actually re-lit in 1996 with a small electric light that is visible for about 6 miles.

Here's the Yaquina Head Light that made the Yaquina Bay Light obsolete in 1873.  It is the tallest light on the Oregon coast and is still in daily operation by the United States Coast Guard.  During WWII, 17  Navy personel were stationed here using the tower as a lookout for Japanese warships.  They never saw any.

We repeated our trips to Bandon and Tillamook with Lyle and Linda, then they got bored and went home to Whidbey.  We expect to see them again when we go to the Olympic Peninsula later this month.  In the meantime we will continue to explore the Oregon coast.



Bonus Pics

Cape Meares Light from ground level

Looking back at the beach from Yaquina Head


  1. I truly don't think they had time to get bored.

  2. You just don't understand how boring we can be.