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Yaquina Head Natural Area

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse Info
Yaquina Head Area Map
Observation Deck (MOV)
Interpretive Center (MOV)
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Yaquina Head Lighthouse

The historic Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon's tallest and second oldest continuously operating lighthouse, is also located on the headland.

The nightly vigil of watching the light is gone as are the resident keepers and their quarters, but the staff of the Bureau of Land Management, now responsible for the tower, guide you through the lighthouse with tales of yesteryear.

Even before you enter the structure and stroll across its unique marble floor, you are aware of its historic significance. The "1872" above the front door signifies that it was Oregon's fifth lighthouse built to guide mariners along the coast and into safe havens.

Construction History

At the time it was built, the area was a wilderness. The road to the lighthouse was very primitive, so a number of the construction materials had to come by way of sea. The Lighthouse Tender Shubrick, a side-wheel steamer, was used to off-load supplies and workers at the bluffs of Yaquina Head.

With construction completed, the fixed white light was illuminated on the night of August 20, 1873, when Head Keeper Fayette Crosby lit the 4-wick lamp fueled by lard oil. The massive white conical shaped tower was built with double-walled brick, for insulation and dampness protection.

It was equipped then as it is today with a first order Fresnel lens. It was manufactured in Paris in 1868 by Barbier & Fenestre, and shipped from France to Panama, transported across the isthmus, then shipped again to Oregon.

Along with the construction of the lighthouse, a large dwelling for two keepers and their families was built east of the tower. There were also a smaller keeper's dwelling, stable, workshop, and a garden area.

Recent History

The 1930s brought many changes to the light station. The light's power source was changed from oil to electricity. A 1000-watt theatrical lamp generating over 130,000 candlepower was installed. The light character was changed from a fixed to a flashing pattern called a "signature," unique to each lighthouse. Yaquina Head's pattern is two seconds on, two seconds off, two on, fourteen off, and then repeats.

Through the years new structures replaced the old. But, as one retired lighthouse keeper put it, "the buildings left a lot to be desired, as winds would come whistling through the buildings with enough force to lift a catalog off the floor." Eighty mile per hour winds are not uncommon at the headland, especially during the wet winter months.

In 1966, the era of the lighthouse keeper at Yaquina Head ended. A modem was installed at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. When the light malfunctioned, the modem automatically notified the Coast Guard in Coos Bay, Oregon. A resident keeper was no longer need on the grounds. The unoccupied quarters eventually fell into disrepair and were removed in 1984.

Children in the Lighthouse

When the lighthouse was constructed in 1872 the children of lighthouse keepers and lighthouse visitors were not permitted to climb the 114 stairs in the tower to the watch room because the US Lighthouse Service feared they would trip and fall on the steep stairs or squeeze between the posts of the handrails. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse retains its historic stairs and handrails and thus the safety of children climbing the stairs is still a concern. Today, children must be at least 42 inches tall to climb the stairs of the tower. Additionally, adults must accompany and assist children ascending the lighthouse tower.