I wake up starving and head down to breakfast provided by the Quality Inn in their small dining area. Starting off with cereal, I consume that and there is still a large hole in my belly so back to the buffet line I go for a second helping of something more substantial. AH HA, I spot bacon, sausage, a waffle maker, biscuit, muffins, bagels, English muffins, white gravy, donuts and more. I decide biscuits with gravy, a couple of sausages, a bagel and some orange juice will fill the hole very nicely. Finishing all this my stomach is finally quite happy.
Back to the room to clean up, pack and get on the road for the day, it is still dark outside at 7AM as I pull out of the parking lot.
Heading south for 14 miles (22.5 k) I follow a small dead-end road to Cape Arago State Park looking for the Cape Arago Lighthouse. I reach a turn around at the end of the road and get out to investigate this picnic/hiking area still searching for the lighthouse. The sun is just coming up and it is cold and windy, I almost loose my hat in the gusts of wind. This would be a lovely place to visit in good weather. Continuing back along the same route I notice a sign for a botanical garden that would make another interesting stop but still being too early it is closed. Further on I spot the lighthouse. Wondering how I get to it I find a road that is signed “Lighthouse Road, NO ACCESS TO LIGHTHOUSE”. Disappointed I am glad I stopped to get the photos I did from Sunset Bay pullout when I saw it in the distance.
The first lighthouse was built and illuminated in 1866 due to the amount of shipping that was coming and going in Coos Bay. This tower was only 25-foot (7.6 m) high with an open base. Connected to the keeper’s residence via a 1,300-foot (400 m) wooden walkway this tower was soon in need of repair due to its western exposure on the small island. In 1890 a second wooden tower, located higher on the island, stood 100 feet (30 m) tall providing better illumination. Erosion threatened this light and in 1934, the third light was built made from concrete to better withstand the inclement weather of the area. Decommissioned on January 1, 2006 the third light remains, all other accessory buildings have been demolished.
Continuing back to Highway 101 I head north for my next stop at Umpqua Lighthouse, 34 miles (54.7 k) north. A Coast Guard survey during the summer of 1849 determined the best locations for lighthouses along the coast. The mouth of the Umpqua River was selected as one of only six sites in the Oregon Territory, which included the modern day states of Oregon and Washington. In the fall of 1856, the officer in charge of lighthouses approved the erection of the lighthouse at Umpqua. In Oregon Territory, local tribes used the Umpqua River as prime hunting and fishing grounds and did not want the lighthouse built. But rather than attacking the Lighthouse the local tribes sabotaged the construction by stealing critical tools and supplies. Lit in October 1857 this was the first light along the Oregon Coast. The structure of the original lighthouse was compromised due to a sandy soil and river flooding not considered by the builders. The light was being removed in 1861 when the workers ran for their lives and watched the tower come crashing down just after they removed it’s light.
The lighthouse was replaced with a buoy and a decision that a new light at Cape Arago, twenty-five miles to the south would better serve seafarers. Eventually in 1888 it was petitioned that a new lighthouse be built at Umpqua so that a ship at sea would pass from one light to the next with out loosing sight of a light on land. Building the lighthouse further inland on a headland above the mouth of the river this is the farthest distance from a river or ocean of all the lighthouses along the Oregon Coast.
The new lighthouse keepers were housed in a duplex home, for the two assistants, a barn, cisterns, and two oil houses that were completed on January 1893. All that remained to be done now was to install the lens in the tower and the light was finally established on December 31, 1894. This new lighthouse stood 165 feet (50.3 m) above sea level and was constructed of brick with a plaster overlay. Decommissioned April 28, 2009 it was “no longer a critical component for safe navigation”.
I head north 40 miles (64.4 k) on Highway 101 to Heceta Head Lighthouse in Devils Elbow State Park.
Just a few headlands over from the Sea Lion Caves lies one of the most photographed lighthouses in Oregon, the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Surrounded by a state campground and park, the lighthouse can be seen from Highway 101, or visited if you are willing to take a short uphill hike.
Parking at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Park there is a lot for day-trippers to experience the surrounding area. The Scenic Viewpoint on 101 is a great way to see a number of different attractions although parking below the historic Cape Creek Bridge will let you walk out onto the beach, bird watch the birds on the large rocks in the small bay, hikes or visit the lighthouse and caretakers cottage.
Perched 150 feet (45.7 m) above the sea the Lighthouse is one of the most-visited lighthouses in the United States, with thousands of visitors each year enjoying its history, romantic aura, and a beautiful setting.
In 1888 the Lighthouse Board recommended that a first-order lighthouses be constructed here at Heceta Head and at Umpqua River. Looking at the forested site today it is hard to imagine that there was very little vegetation when the lighthouse was constructed. A forest fire swept through the area a few years earlier, wiping everything out. Construction began in 1892 with the contractors completing the dwellings, barn, and oil houses in January 1893. The 56 foot (17 m) tall masonry tower stands fifty-six feet tall has it’s light 205 feet (62.5 m) above sea level. This is the most powerful light on the Oregon coast and can be seen 21 miles (33.7 k) out to sea. With three keepers and their families at Heceta Head, a small, one-room schoolhouse was built at the station to educate the children.
Life became a little more modern and less isolated in the 1930s as the Oregon Coast Highway was being built. In 1934 a power plant/garage was built to electrify the station eliminating the oil vapor lamp. Meanwhile the keeper’s dwellings received lights and an electric washing machine.
The station was originally equipped with a separate dwelling for the head keeper and a duplex for the two assistants. The addition of electricity reduced the keeper’s workload and in the end 1930s the position of second assistant keeper was eliminated. Thus the remaining two keepers occupied the duplex, and the single dwelling was removed in 1940.
75 Coastguardsmen were stationed at Heceta Head during World War II as part of a coastal patrol. The commanders lived in half of the duplex, while the enlisted men were housed in barracks erected on the site of the former keeper’s dwelling, they patrolled the coast with roughly 12 dogs 24 hours a day.
After atomization in 1963, the remaining duplex cottage was leased to Lane Community College for extra class space and since 1995 the cottage has served as a Bed and Breakfast. Heceta Head Light and Keepers Quarters were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
It was 1:30 PM as I left the lighthouse and still needed to drive 191 miles (307.4 k) to my son’s house in Vancouver, WA. This dive took a little more time due to the Friday evening New Years Weekend traffic in the Portland Metro Area. Arriving at 5:30 PM we all went out for pizza and I fell into bed by 9:30 PM, tired after a very long tiring day.