Exploring the Historical Oregon Coastal Lighthouses

The Oregon Coast boast of having nine historical lighthouses, on the “NRHP” (National Register of Historical Places). Most of the lighthouses in Oregon were built between 1870 and 1896 and constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. They were established and operated by the US Lighthouse Board and later turned the care and operation of these to the US Coast Guard. After the automation of these beacons in the 1960s the Coast Guard began transferring lighthouse holdings to other government agencies. Seven of these historical places are open to the public, being operated by government and nonprofit organizations. You can visit these lighthouses and explore their history. And some of them you can even get up close and personal with the lenses. My plan is to see all of these sometime this summer. So far I’ve been able to take in four of these already in southern Oregon. I always love going and seeing lighthouses everywhere I can in the country. I’ve seen many of them on the Great Lakes, some on the East Coast and now of been able to take in quite a few along the West Coast. I always love the history and the romance of these historical places. The lighthouses on the East Coast date back considerably further than the ones on the West Coast and the Great Lakes. On my first day trip exploring the southern Oregon Coast, I headed about an hour north to Cape Blanco Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located in Cape Blanco State Park just a little ways north of the town of Port Oxford. This stunning lighthouse sits high on a cliff. This is the oldest standing lighthouse on the Oregon coast and the furthest most West.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
View of the bay from ground level at the lighthouse.20170506_151230
The keepers’ house is long gone, but this lighthouse is still operational today and is fully automated. For two dollars you can go inside the lighthouse and get up close to the lens. Volunteers give guided tours and keep an eye on the visitors. Here’s a photo of part of the work room and the beautiful red bricks that make up this structure.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is one of the large cans used to hold the kerosene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Here’s a photo heading up the stairs to the light.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Once you get up the stairs you can stand right next to, but not touch this beautiful First Order Fresnel Lens.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This light was fully automated in 1980 using electric light and electric motor to turn this large lens.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Back in the day when this was lit by kerosene. The keepers had to clean the Lens and the Windows daily but look at the lovely view they had.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I just love the looks of this against the beautiful blue skies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
On a different day I headed about 130 miles north to take in three other lighthouses. I started at Umpqua River Lighthouse the furthest north on this visit, and work my way back home taking in two others. This lighthouse sits on US Coast Guard property that is still occupied with living quarters used by the Coast Guard right on the property.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is the second lighthouse occupying this site. An earlier structure built in 1857 came to its demise due to erosion in 1861. And was not replaced until 1894 and still operates to this day by the Coast Guard, it was automated in 1966. There are a couple cool things at this site. First there is are very nice Museum that is run by a nonprofit organization and they also coordinate the tours of the lighthouse. For eight dollars you can get a tour of the lighthouse with lots information, plus browse the museum at your leisure. Here’s some photos of the inside of the museum and all the information that’s available.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tons and tons of information available.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe one thing I found the most interesting was this plaque explaining the different orders of Fresnel Lenses, and how they are used and where.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I like the small harbor lands on display.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It’s very well done with a large gift shop in the basement. And on the second floor displays and information on the Coast Guard explaining its history. I really like this painting of one of the Coast Guard’s lifeboats.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Here’s a model of that same type a lifeboat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And out in the yard between the museum and the lighthouse an actual life boat use for years. What’s unique about these boats is they were designed, so that they could roll completely over if swamped in the waves and come upright on their own.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And then it was off to the lighthouse for my personal tour, (seeing that I was the only one that was there at that time).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Did not get a very good picture of the stairs going up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
But the cool thing about this lighthouse is the lens. It’s one of the very few in the world that has both red and clear lens.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And the way you access this lenses up through the center of it. And the brass post in here used to hold the kerosene wick.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
But now holds the electric light bulbs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Another neat thing about this lighthouse is it was built at the same time and with the same plans that were used to build the Heceta Head Lighthouse (the one I will be working at in June). The Heceta Head Lighthouse does not have the multicolored lens though. But this way I got to see the way the house is built. From here I headed south to take in a view of the Cape Arago Lighthouse. This is one of the lighthouses that is not open to the public. It is also the newest lighthouse being first illuminated in 1934 replacing an older structure that stood on the site. The property that this lighthouse sits on is owned by area tribes and not open to the public. But you can get a good view of it from Sunset Beach State Park, Southwest of the town of Coos Bay. This lighthouses no longer uses a navigational aid and was decommissioned in 2006. Here you can see the lighthouse we off in the distance sitting high on the bluff.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And here I zoomed in on it to get a closer view, I would have love to get up close and personal to it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
From there it was on to Coquille River Lighthouse just north of the town of Brandon. This lighthouse is open for tours from mid-May through October, but was not open as of yet. It is part of the Bullards Beach State Park, and run by volunteers when open.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The lighthouse was commissioned in 1896 to guide mariners across the dangerous bar entering the mouth of the Coquille River. It was decommissioned in 1939 and no longer is used for navigational purposes. Restored in 1979 as an interpretive center is now run by the State of Oregon Parks. And no longer contains a lens and is in need of some repair as you can tell by these photos.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Even though I didn’t get to go inside I don’t think I missed too much. But I did get to see the guard seagulls, keeping an eye on the property.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Well that’s it for now but I’m sure I’ll have more highlights on other lighthouses as the summer goes on. Best wishes and safe travels to all, Rick



  1. I also LOVE lighthouses! Have you been to my fav Sandy Hook? Love the views of the NYC skyline from there. Bill and I visited a couple OR lighthouses last year – all with wonderful views!


    • Hi Kelly
      Have not been to Sandy Hook Lighthouse yet 😦 will have to add to my bucket list 🙂
      But been to some in Maine, Maryland, the Carolinas, Florida and many on the Great Lakes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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