Oregon 2015, Part 4: The Lighthouses of Oregon

Astoria to Port Orford, Oregon (Map)

Summer 2015


The two hour drive from Portland ended in Astoria and a city that was impressive in comparison to the empty, wooded road I'd been driving. Astoria is the county seat of Clatsop County, so I was happy to see another county courthouse shortly after arrival.

This city was also the filming location for The Goonies, something that they promote and something that acts as motivation for visitors. As I've never seen The Goonies, this didn't matter to me in the slightest, but apparently that gray building in the back is the old county jail where The Goonies staged a breakout?

The gorgeous Flavel House sits right across the street from the old jail, so after I stopped to take a picture of the county courthouse, we then walked around the block to appreciate this house and a few other nice homes along Exchange Street.

Sure enough, this place also has a Goonies tie-in. This is the place where Mikey's dad worked.

With neither of us being Goonies aficionados, we only briefly checked out the scene in Astoria & then went down to the harbour. Here the Lightship Columbia is a floating museum.

If you're confused about the purpose of a lightship, these ships were anchored on or near treacherous rocks and shined a light from their anchored position. It worked well in cases where the water was too deep, or it was too hard and/or too expensive to construct a normal lighthouse.

Astoria is on the Columbia River, but the Pacific Ocean is only about 10 miles away. As Shelloo wanted to go to a Pacific beach and I knew about the nearby Wreck of the Peter Iredale, we stopped in at Fort Stevens State Park before continuing south.

You may ask why didn't I wait until that woman left to take a picture. Well, she was really into the rust and history and profundity of the wreck, taking her time to closely inspect and touch every surface while moving very slow. As it goes with my impatient self, she easily won the war of attrition.

Looking into the history of this wreck, this masted ship was an interesting diversion from the usual barge and steamship shipwrecks I've seen - as seen in this old photo from 1936.

From the Wreck of the Peter Iredale, we were now on the coastal Oregon-101, heading south and paralleling the sea for the next day and a half. The next stop could have been a trail to view the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, but as I have that weird thing about only getting to lighthouses if I can stand before them, I decided against it.

Instead, it was Cannon Beach and their famous Haystack Rock. Along with Multnomah Falls and Mt. Hood, Haystack Rock has to be up there when talking about icons of Oregon.

I'm not sure if I would have stopped by myself, but Shelloo wanted to and as I approached the beach, I was happy she did. This wasn't an overrated tourist stop, but actually impressive & humbling. (Plus, I got to see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse off of the coast without having to hike the Tillamook Head Trail!)

Speaking of iconic Oregon, after lunch at a pub with a resident seagull that sat behind my shoulder and freaked me out, we hooked out to sea at sunny Tillamook & found foggy Cape Meares. Which, along with Haceta Head, would be the two iconic lighthouses of Oregon; lighthouses that are so popular you have a good chance to see them on American or North American lighthouse calendars. (I'm sure the spectacular coast doesn't hurt either.)

Now with my wanderlust & the amount of time I look at the internet, I've come to spend a lot of time looking at Russ Rowlett's amazing Lighthouse Directory. Through perusing the pages over and over, I've come to picture visiting the associated lighthouses from various places. The stone lighthouses of Scotland, the odd and almost art deco lighthouses of Iceland, the tall and colourful towers of Belgium. Oregon too, for here they utilized the cliffs instead of building towering Carolinian lighthouses; only making little stubbs that still succeed in providing a high focal plane over the sea (Newfoundland does this with their lighthouses a fair amount as well).

We were out of the fog within a few minutes of leaving Cape Meares. There was a bit of straight driving and we eventually pulled into Lincoln City around nightfall. I'd figured on this perfectly & had a campsite booked here going into today, but then I did what I always do at least once a trip. Inexplicably, I drop a silly amount of money on a bed to sleep in, instead of sticking with camping or sleeping in the car.

The insult to injury was that Lincoln City had some cool old motels, but they were now crazy expensive, touristy chic places. So we ended up at this one motel, which was one of those ones that's been renovated and somewhat feels like an old motel, but also somewhat feels like a Comfort Inn. It was nice enough & my delicate, needy self got to watch some TV, but we really should have just slept in the car at the reserved campsite. Oh well.

The next day we woke up before the sun to get going on our full day.

What would have been nice morning light at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, ended up being foggy just like at Cape Meares. One consolation was that at least the lighthouse here wasn't so shoe'd in on a steep coast, so I was able to wander about and look at the coastal scenery.

Coast at Yaquina Head Lighthouse

In addition to Yaquina Head Lighthouse, there's also Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which I only photographed from the parking lot below. Yaquina Bay is typically open and you can even go inside, but much to my chagrin, it was closed for renovations for a couple of months.

In addition, halfway to the next lighthouse there's also a privately-owned lighthouse that I wasn't able to get. You're not starting to understand how I only "got" 7 of the 12 Oregon lighthouses.

After Yaquina Bay, we continued down the coast, passing through towns and marvelling at their fogless beauty. Rolling for about an hour, the coast here was beautiful and close to the highway. This means it wasn't far off the road to reach Haceta Head with its beach, trail up to the keepers quarters and lighthouse.

As I mentioned, Haceta Head is the other iconic Oregon lighthouse. Of course it would be a bit more scenic if we hadn't found more fog, but such is life. On the other hand, LighthouseFriends says this is one of the most visited lighthouses in North America & we didn't see one other person on the trail up to the light or at the lighthouse. And with how I started to enjoy visiting lighthouses because of having them to myself in Nova Scotia & even more so in Newfoundland, I suppose a foggy, but quiet Haceta Head wasn't so bad.

I mean, who needs magnificent coastal Oregon scenery anyway?

Another hour's drive brought us to the next lighthouse. Considering the lengthy coast of Oregon, it was becoming easy to understand how there's only 12 lighthouses with these distances between lights.

The above lighthouse is the Umpqua River Lighthouse, one which we finally managed to see without foggy conditions - probably on account of it being the furthest inland lighthouse in Oregon. (At the time I had no idea how far the coast was off to our left. There were only trees and a river in sight. Looking at a map, I see it's about a 1/2mi (800m).)

About halfway to the next lighthouse, it was time for some lunch. I remembered my friend Stevie posting about his cycling adventure up this coast & his descriptions of a sleepy, "dusty" Coos Bay that made me want to stop there. Conveniently, Coos Bay was the sizable town that popped up as we needed some food.

We pulled down the main strip and found EZ Thai, which was more than acceptable. Shelloo then went into a yarn store, while I went for a brief walk about Coos Bay. As I've always championed, you see more on a bicycle & Stevie was right about this town. It was different from a lot of the other communities along this coast, a little more weathered and a little more stuck in older times without totally being rejigged and repainted for tourists. I liked it.

We skipped over Cape Arago as they demolished the footbridge and you can now only see the lighthouse from shore.

Continuing on, the next lighthouse was in Bandon, the Coquille River Lighthouse. Amazingly, even though it was on the coast, it wasn't totally socked in with fog!

You could even go inside the Coquille River Lighthouse, as the gift shop was in the attached equipment room.

The only thing was that this being one of the few clear lighthouses, there were a lot of people around. I headed back outside and up the beach a little bit, appreciating the first sunny lighthouse since the Columbia lightship.

The last, most southern lighthouse was Cape Blanco, which we would have to walk to as the gate guy closed the gate just as we were approaching. It was only about a kilometer (0.62mi), but it was extremely windy with sideways light rain/sea spray. Thankfully it was more warm than anything, but the conditions were still trying & funny all the same.

Arriving at the lighthouse, the two volunteers were confused with why we were on foot. Apparently it was still 15 minutes early to close the gate and the gate guy must have wanted to screw off for the rest of the day. I appreciated that the volunteers at the lighthouse were more excited to see us, even though the lady also shook her head and exclaimed that today was the first foggy day in two weeks. "It's been so beautiful and sunny. Just clear and pleasant with such great views. You guys have to come back tomorrow, it'll be nicer then!"

Two weeks of nice weather & I picked this foggy Wednesday. Ha.

Cape Blanco was still closing up soon, so we could only chat in the attached area and take a look at the stairs without going up to the lantern room.

Boy, someone's trip to this coast on a sunny day where they paid attention to the opening times at these lighthouses? It would be a bit different from my experience, haha.

Of course, returning inland via a lengthy 10 minute drive, it was again sunny and clear. And the coast here outside the capes was so nice that it made me stop in places without lighthouses, like the Battle Rock Wayside Park in Port Orford.

There was another 1/2-hour to drive before arriving at the road that would take us inland. We had now seen all of the easily accessible lighthouses along this coast (save for a 5-km hike lighthouse near Portland).

Continue to Part 5...


Go Back to the Main Page of this Website

< Older Update:
Bonavista Peninsula 2015

< Older Update:
Oregon 2015, Part 3:
The Dalles to Portland


Newer Update:
Oregon 2015, Part 5:
Lake of the Woods
Lookout Tower

1 - The Wreck of the Peter Iredale - The Oregon History Project
2 - The Goonies Guide to Astoria & Warrenton - The Goondocks

All text & pictures on this website created by Belle River Nation are copyright Belle River Nation. Please do not reproduce without the written consent of Belle River Nation. All rights reserved.

I appreciate when people let me know I'm using punctuation wrong, making grammatical errors, using Rickyisms (malapropisms) or words incorrectly. Let me know if you see one and the next 40/poutine/coney dog is on me.