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Yaquina Head Lighthouse Oregon/Washington BLM



Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse Info
Yaquina Head Area Map
Observation Deck (MOV)
Interpretive Center (MOV)
Download Quicktime
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. Click here for Lighthouse Tour Information.

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 just one in a string planned strategically located along the Pacific Coast to allow mariners to sail the rocky coastline after dark.

Construction History

At the time the Yaquina Head Lighthouse (originally called the Cape Foulweather Light at Yaquina Point) was built, the area was a wilderness. There was no real road to the lighthouse—just a trail that a horse and wagon could traverse partly by traveling along the beach. Construction materials and supplies had to come by way of sea. The Lighthouse Tender Shubrick, a side-wheel steamer, delivered goods to the small cove just south of the headland, where workers could haul them up the bluff.

Construction of the massive white conical shaped tower began in late 1871; with the wall at the base over five feet thick, it was built to last for generations. Once construction was completed, the fixed white light was illuminated on the night of August 20, 1873, when Keeper Fayette Crosby lit the 4-wick lamp fueled by lard oil.

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

Along with the construction of the lighthouse, a large dwelling for two keepers and their families was built east of the tower. Other structures included a smaller keeper's dwelling, stable, cisterns, and a workshop. Keepers and their families planted and tended a kitchen garden.

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 US Lighthouse Service was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. This same year, the light character of Yaquina Head was changed from a fixed to a flashing pattern called a "signature," unique to each lighthouse. Yaquina Head's signature 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 computer was installed at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. When the light malfunctioned, the modem automatically notified the Coast Guard's Aids to Navigation Team in Coos Bay, Oregon. A resident keeper was no longer needed 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 children of lighthouse keepers and lighthouse visitors were not permitted to climb the 114 stairs in the tower. The US Lighthouse Service feared for their safety. Because Yaquina Head Lighthouse retains its historic stairs, handrails, and balusters, stumbling or slipping between the wide gap in the balusters still poses dangers. For their safety children must be at least 42 inches tall to ascend the lighthouse tower stairs. Additionally, those children over 42 inches tall wishing to climb, must be accompanied by an adult, who may not carry or pick up the child.