Monday, August 10, 2009

Oregon Lighthouses

The Oregon coast is not only rugged and beautiful, but it has several wonderful old lighthouses. Most of them were built in the late 1800s as shipping increased along the coast due to logging and gold mining. They were originally staffed by a crew of lighthouse keepers (and their families) who worked and lived in isolated, harsh conditions. The lamps burned mineral oil for fuel and needed to be trimmed and wound and cleaned and polished frequently. The fuel had to be hauled up winding staircases every few hours all night long. It was demanding work, but many keepers stayed for years, so it must have been rewarding. Gradually the lights became more sophisticated and in the 1930s, most were converted to electric light bulbs. In the 1960s they were fully automated making lighthouse keepers obsolete. Some lighthouses were even abandoned and fell into ruin.

But now, thank goodness, several of them have been restored and are open for tours. At the Umpqua River Lighthouse (above) you can take a tour up to the very top for only $3.00. It is the only Oregon coast lighthouse with a red flash in its sequence, so it has beautiful cranberry colored sections in its Fresnel lens. These Fresnel lenses were manufactured in Paris over 100 years ago and the guide claims that there is no way to get replacement parts anymore, so each lens is priceless.

The lens sections are actually prisms that focus the light into a beam that can be seen for miles. The entire lens assemble rotates around the bulb creating its distinctive sequence. These sequences are marked on nautical charts so mariners can distinguish each light along the coast. If you click on the link you can see the Umpqua Lighthouse just to right of center, near the tail of the North arrow. It says the light is alternating, two white, one red, every 15 seconds, 165' tall, visible 20 miles.

We didn't visit this one at Cape Arago because it's not open to the public, but we saw it from an overlook along Highway 101.

This is the Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon. It is open for tours too.

At Cape Blanco Lighthouse the tour guide showed us these beautifully polished containers that were used to measure and carry the fuel up to the lamp via the cast iron stairs. These lighthouse keepers must have been exceptionally fit climbing those stairs several times a day.

If you are ever in Oregon do try to visit a lighthouse. It's an affordable day out and a wonderful peek into nautical history.


Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Interesting post and as always, beautiful photos! I'd love to see Oregon someday!

Miss Jean said...

The Oregon coast is one of our very favorite places to visit. We have stayed in Bandon many times and watched the fireworks on the 4th of July over the lighthouse. My other favorite is up at Cape Foulweather. Scary place to be. We would love to go back soon.

Just a little something from Judy said...

This is a very fascinating post! I love the Oregon Coast. I love learning new facts about it, and you are certainly doing a great job in that department! It is fun taking this trip with you. I live on the East Coast and am amazed at the differences of the two. Lighthouses have always been intriquing to me. Thanks for sharing everything with us.

Neabear said...

We love lighthouses too. Especially B-Daddy. I recognize the Haceta Head lighthouse because we have been to that one. That is the only Oregon one I have been to. We also have seen Battery Point from across the whatever. And have been to Point Reyes, Santa Cruz and Sanibel in Florida.

Dawn said...

Such rugged beauty up there. Your history lesson was facinating. The keepers had such a huge responsibility didn't they?

Abby Lanes said...

You're making me want to travel to Oregon. These photos are just amazing.

Abby Lanes said...

You're making me want to travel to Oregon. These photos are just amazing.