Newport’s two lighthouses shine through the darkest, stormiest nights
Lighthouse lovers rejoice: Newport is lucky enough to have two picturesque lighthouses that were historically used to guide and warn ships at sea. These historic treasures are now landmarks and tourist destinations as well as icons of our beautiful city. Make sure to visit both while you’re here.
A piece of Oregon history sits atop a bluff at the mouth of the Yaquina River: the historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, built in 1871 and decommissioned in 1874, having been made obsolete by the new Yaquina Head Lighthouse just up the coast a few miles. It was officially restored as a privately maintained aid to navigation on December 7, 1996.
This old girl, believed to be the oldest structure in Newport, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the only existing Oregon lighthouse with the living quarters attached, and the only historic wooden Oregon lighthouse still standing. It is also rumored to be haunted, although the haunting story seems to have originated with a fiction short story written in 1899.
The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse has been restored to its original condition by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), with the help of many people and agencies, including Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses. Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses is a private 501(c)3 nonprofit organization formed by local citizens to provide and support the restoration, education and interpretive services of the park. This organization relies heavily on volunteer support in all areas of operation.
The official relighting ceremony with the US Coast Guard took place on December 7, 1996. The light, 161 feet above sea level, shines with a steady white light from dusk to dawn (and sometimes on dark days, because it is controlled by a photocell).
The Lighthouse is open to the public every day except for holidays such as Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving. Entrance is free by donation. The lighthouse is accessible via paved trails and a walkway leading to the top of the hill within Yaquina Bay State Park, at the north end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Access-compromised visitor groups are encouraged to use the large parking lot at the back of the lighthouse (entrance at SW Government and 9th Streets).
Inside the lighthouse, two flights of stairs lead to the watch room. The lantern room is not open to the public. The basement is open to the public and features a video about the lighthouse. The interpretive store offers many educational items about lighthouses and the surrounding coastal habitat.
The lighthouse is now surrounded by beautiful Yaquina Bay State Park, which includes walking trails through forested lands, a fishermen’s memorial, a scenic overlook that provides great views of the entrance to Yaquina Bay and the Yaquina Bay Bridge, and beach access.
With more than 350,000 visitors a year, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of the West Coast’s most visited lighthouses. Located just north of Newport in the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse was built in 1873, and remains an excellent example of late 1800s lighthouses. At 93 feet, the tower is the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. Located on a narrow point of land jutting due west into the Pacific Ocean, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse took more than a year to build, using more than 370,000 bricks.
The light has been active since Head Keeper Fayette Crosby first walked up the 114 steps to light the wicks on the evening of August 20, 1873. During this time, the oil-burning, fixed white light was displayed from sunset to sunrise. Today, the fully automated first order Fresnel lens runs on commercial power, flashing its unique pattern of two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, 14 seconds off, 24 hours a day. The oil burning wicks were replaced with a 1,000-watt globe which, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, keepers of the aid to navigation, generates over 130,000 candlepower.
While the nightly vigil of watching the light is gone, as are the resident keepers and their quarters, the Bureau of Land Management, who is now responsible for the tower, guides visitors through the lighthouse with tales of yesteryear, year round.
The interpretive center, which opened at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in May 1997, is the best place to start your visit to this 100 acre site. It houses exhibits related to many features of the area, along with a well-stocked interpretive store. Proceeds from store sales directly benefit Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses, and are used for lighthouse restoration, education, interpretation, and maintenance. Yaquina Head offers much more than the lighthouse: Trails provide easy access to view marine wildlife in tide pools, rookery rocks, and coves.
The Lighthouse is open to the public every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For more information on either lighthouse, go to yaquinalights.org