Eleven lighthouses are scattered along Oregon’s 360+ miles of coastline. Some are pretty enough to appear on a calendar, some have been deactivated, others are private, and some involve stories of peril and ghosts. The Cape Meares light’s claim to fame, however, is that it’s Oregon’s shortest lighthouse— just 38 feet high. Located at the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, the light is not the only attraction here. You’ll also find an oddly shaped “Octopus Tree,” the largest Sitka spruce tree in the state (144 feet tall), great views of off-shore rocks for spotting birds and sea lions, a picnic area, and hiking trails. During winter and spring migrations, this park is also a good place to whale watch.
Although the Cape Meares lighthouse itself is not that tall, on its cliffside perch it stands 217 feet above sea level. It was first lit on January 1, 1890, and at the time, the light was generated from a fire-wick kerosene lamp and an eight-paneled lens with red and clear panels that created a red flash every minute. It could be seen for 21 miles out to sea. Eventually a first-order Fresnel lens was installed. Fresnel, the inventor of the lens, designed different sizes for different requirements for different lighthouses. They were designated first through sixth order and varied in size from 72 7/16 inches (1st order) down to 11 3/16 inches (6th order) inside diameter. The light was deactivated in 1963.
Depending on when you visit, you might find the lighthouse open so you can climb to the top. Or schedule a tour in advance. A wide, asphalt trail (wheelchair accessible) heading downhill provides easy access to the lighthouse. Benches are conveniently located along the path so you can enjoy the scenery or stop and catch your breath on the way back up to the parking lot. Oregon lighthouses have safely guided ships at sea for nearly 145 years. Capes Meares is just one of those important beacons, and worth a stop. There’s no fee to visit the park or lighthouse.
If You Go to Cape Meares
Cape Meares is located on the Three Capes Scenic Loop north of the village of Oceanside, Oregon and approximately 10 miles west of Tillamook. From Highway 101 in Tillamook follow signs to Cape Meares.
No charge to see the park or lighthouse. The park is open daily, throughout the year, from 7 am to dusk. The lighthouse is usually open daily April through October from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule a tour of the lighthouse, contact the Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse at 503-842-2244. For more information, visit here.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com