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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Heceta Head Lighthouse

After my late afternoon beach walk from Carl Washburne State Park, I took a quick trip up US 101 to visit Heceta Head and it's famous lighthouse.


Lighthouse keeper's home from the beach

The setting sun and cloudy weather didn't make for very good photo ops, so I returned the following day.  What a difference!  This time, I was greeted with blue, sunny skies.  The magnificent scenery started right from the parking lot, with a nice panorama of the ocean and glimpse of the keeper's house.


Lighthouse keeper's home (can you spot the lighthouse?)

It was a pleasant half-mile climb through a lovely forest to reach the keeper's house.  Rimmed by a sparkling white picket fence, the house had been restored to it's former glory.  It's listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Now operated as a bed and breakfast (what a wonderful place to spend the night!) it wasn't open to the public.


A very idyllic spot

But that didn't stop me from wandering the perimeter and snagging some photos.  Views from the house were amazing - one of the few perks to living here back in the day.  Although a good-sized structure, this place once housed two assistant light keepers and their families.


Dramatic lighthouse view

After rounding the keeper's house, I continued uphill to the lighthouse itself.  The panorama from here was nothing short of a treat.  Situated on a wooded bluff 205 feet above the ocean, Heceta Head Lighthouse had a commanding view.  In one direction, the Pacific Ocean stretched away for miles, an endless carpet of blue.  To the south, an adjacent cove, wooded headland, and scenic highway bridge anchored the landscape.
 

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Then there was the lighthouse itself.  Fully restored in 2013, it's new paint job gleamed brightly.  And I loved the cheery red roof!  Did you know that Heceta Head is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the coast?  I could certainly see why.


A glorious view from the lighthouse!

The cape was discovered by Don Bruno de Heceta, a Portuguese sea captain, who in 1775 set sail along the West coast as part of a secret voyage for the Queen of Spain.  His crew sidelined by illness, he was forced to turn back near the Columbia River.  But Heceta was the first person to sight this rocky headland, which now bears his name.


I liked it's red roof

A century passed, and vessels sailing this coastline requested a lighthouse to guide them around the rocky, treacherous waters.  In 1892, an order was placed for a First Order Fresnel lens with the Chance brothers in England. 


Inside the lighthouse

In the meantime, construction of the lighthouse and two keeper's houses had begun.  Shipping materials to this isolated location proved to be a challenge.  Back then, only a single lane wagon road traversed the steep oceanside cliffs.  Workers either used this road, or supplies were delivered via rafts floated into the cove with incoming tides.  The Fresnel lens had to be very carefully off-loaded onto the cape via surf boat.


Close-up look at the Fresnel lens

The Heceta Head lighthouse began operation in March 1894.  Due to its isolation, the first several years were tough on the keepers and their families.  However, in the 1930's things began to look up, with the construction of US 101 that connected Heceta Head to the world.  With a modern roadway also came electricity, partially automating the lighthouse, and lightening the keeper's duties.


View out the window

The lighthouse became fully automated in 1963, eliminating the need for keepers.  Years later, the entire site was turned over to the Oregon State Parks Department, and has been under their control ever since.


Wild iris

The lighthouse offered daily tours, led by volunteers.  Surprisingly, this sunny Monday in April had produced few visitors.  A half dozen eager volunteers hung out beside the red-capped tower, offering to take guests inside.  Not about to pass up a chance to see the interior, I happily accepted.


Great vistas from the bluff

My tour guide was a very enthusiastic retired woman.  She was a wealth of information, starting in on the lighthouse's history.  She described how the early keepers had to lug kerosene up the tower's 58 steps to keep it's 5-wick lamp lit.  Also included in their duties was to wind up a heavy counterweight, that, as it slowly dropped, provided the lens' rotation.  The day crew had the worst job of all - cleaning kerosene grime off the delicate Fresnel lens.


Lighthouse peek-a-boo

After a brief history lesson, our guide led us up the stairs to an area just under the lens.  Peeking through a gap in the upper chamber, gave glimpses of the magnificent Fresnel lens.  This two-ton masterpiece is comprised of 640 delicate, hand-ground prisms.  The only active British-made lens of it's size in the country, our guide explained that only certain people are allowed inside it's chambers for cleaning.  Maintenance must be done with extreme caution, as the glass in this lens is now irreplaceable.


Another view of the Fresnel lens

That Fresnel lens was quite an impressive sight.  I tried to capture a few photos, but the narrow viewing gap made it difficult.  I was, however, able to get some good shots out the lighthouse windows.  The views from there were mighty fine.


Scenic cove

As our guide led us back down the stairs, she described how, once the Coast Guard deeded this lighthouse to the State Parks Department, over the years, it had fallen into disrepair.  Through private, state, and federal dollars, a renovation project began in 2011.  The interior was totally gutted, revealing the original wood floor and brick walls, which were then restored.  The original metalwork and masonry were replaced, and new windows installed.  Then, the entire tower and outbuildings received a new coast of paint.  Finally, in June 2013, a shiny, reconditioned Heceta Head lighthouse opened for visitors.


Very friendly seagull

After my tour, I climbed the wooded bluff behind the lighthouse, to get a look across the headland.  The views from this lofty perch were outstanding.  Another vantage point, and a different perspective to see Heceta Head.  Some very cool views of the lighthouse!  I could look right into the Fresnel lens as it slowly rotated.  As I climbed down, lovely purple wild irises blooming in the forest provided perfect accents for this gorgeous area.


Iconic view of Heceta Head

I ended my tour at a large roadside pullout south of Heceta Head.  This vantage provides a classic view of the lighthouse and it's buildings, perched atop the wooded headland.  An often-photographed scene, I tried my hand capturing an image for myself.

Then - it was on to the splashing waves and spouting horns of Cape Perpetua.  C'mon back for my next post and prepare to be wowed!


Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends and Weekly Top Shot.

36 comments:

  1. Hello Linda, what a great tour of the lighthouse. The scenic views are just stunning. The iris and gull are pretty too. Fantastic series! Have a happy new week ahead!

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  2. I love these photos. I enjoy Heceta Head lighthouse. Always enjoy the tour within. Knowledgeable tour guides are great! Have you been to Cape Blanco light house? It is past Bandon and sits up high from the shoreline. It is only open a few months of the year. Nice area as well. I want to be a light house docent when I grow up!

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  3. Great images and info, Linda.
    Super great post!

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  4. Very nice photos, Linda. I enjoy seeing and hearing about lighthouses. This is a very fine one and it's great that it has been restored and preserved. I have a number of lighthouses to visit out here on the east coast.

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  5. Stunning images! I love all the different angles.

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  6. Another beautiful place in Oregon! Great pictures!

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  7. Linda, this is such a lovely tour...and I do love the sea...and the seagull is adorable! :)

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  8. Beautifully shot. It's a wonderful area and all the better for having the lighthouse as a focus to it.

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  9. Thanks for a great post. I really enjoyed seeing the lighthouse and the keeper's house. So good that they have been restored.

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  10. Glad you were able to do all that climbing. I like lighthouses and fresnel lenses are amazing.

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  11. How beautiful. I could imagine the hard work of the early lighthouse keepers. It's good that it's been preserved and its history kept alive by volunteers.

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  12. Well I was wowed with this post so i don't know how you are going to postit! Love all the scenery, shots of house, lighhouse bird and the very interesting hostory

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  13. Lovely pictures Linda. It's so interesting to see a different part of the world.

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  14. Thank goodness the light house has now been restored. I'm always wowed by your photography so what's coming next must be amazing.

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  15. Love lighthouses! This one is beautiful and the inside is amazing. Oh to be by the ocean! I am now missing it!

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  16. Nice series - we have similar lighthouses

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  17. Such a pretty place! I am officially jealous of your solo trip and cant wait to see your Perpetua shots!

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  18. Wow and double wow! These are spectacular pictures of a very beautiful place. Thank you for taking me there, and I'll be tagging along for the next bit! :-)

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  19. That is stunning scenery. It's nice to see them restoring historic places like this - I'd love to stay in that bed-and-breakfast and wake up to that view!

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  20. That is one beautiful lens!! Such a pretty spot I wonder what it was like being a lighthouse keepers wife...probably lots of work plus being a teacher to your kids. I like the red roof too...it all looks so cheerful:)

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  21. The lighthouse is beautiful. I love your photo of the lens. I like the iris and the gull too.

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  22. Beautiful photos Linda! I LOVE that you capture and post shots that most people don't include on their blogs! Truly makes one feel they are there with you :)
    Blessings, Aimee

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  23. Hi Linda, great shots of Heceta Head! I've never gotten to tour there, and your photos make me want to visit as soon as possible! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  24. Wish you had invited me to go along!! I would LOVE it there. :))

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  25. Looks a lovely area. Just found out "The Goonies" film was shot around the beaches of Oregon and the Columbia River as there was an article here all about it. Always liked the background scenery in that film but assumed it was B.C. or Maine.

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  26. Another spot on my list. Love all the shots, but I'm especially drawn to the view out the window.

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  27. Once again I feel like I have seen something I have never seen before...love the shot of the lens!

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  28. Oh you are touring some of the most scenic places on the coast. It makes me want to go back to Heceta Head and stay in that b&b for sure. I also LOVE Cape Perpetua.

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  29. Everything about your post is awesome!!

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  30. What an amazing tour! And your photos, as always, are spectacular. There are so many beautiful places near where you are.

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  31. Thanks for taking me back - I loved this lighthouse. Your photos are wonderful.

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  32. I absolutely love lighthouses, and you captured this one greatly. Love the peak-a-boo shots. :)

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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  33. I would love to visit here. What a treat. Great post and wonderful photos Linda.

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  34. beautiful images of this gorgeous lighthouse. It does have quite a view.

    that fresnal lens must be cool to see.

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  35. Love that shot of the lens from outside, and the rest of them too, of course.

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  36. Is there any lighthouse in such a stunning location as this? It never fails to make me catch my breath. I haven't been there since the restoration a couple of years ago; your photographs clearly show all its breathtaking beauty.

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