NEWPORT, Ore. – Yaquina Head lies a couple of miles north of downtown Newport, Oregon, just off Highway 101. Visitors are drawn to the popular lighthouse site for the tide pools, the birds, the whales, the view and more.
Sam and Debbie, drove seventeen hundred miles from their home in northern Texas to see Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, fulfilling Sam’s bucket list wish of seeing a lighthouse and dressing in period costume. The pair serve as volunteer guides for two months at Yaquina Head Natural Area, where Sam wears the lighthouse keeper’s uniform and Debbie a dress style that dates back to 1885.
The 70-foot high cliff supporting the lighthouse provides an excellent viewing area to watch Gray Whales. The whales, who thrive in the cold waters, take no note of the strong winds that push waves into the shore and buffet the 93-foot, double-walled brick lighthouse tower.
On this day, Sam led tours of the vibrant tide pools below the lighthouse.
“From our home in northern Texas it is 700 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. There, people crowd around to see a crab in a tide pool. Up here the whole beach is teeming with life, starfish, urchins, mussels, clams and crabs.”
For those that desire a drier adventure, the offshore rocks are packed with seals and birds. All are readily observed from the peninsula with a modest set of binoculars or the viewing telescopes mounted around the grounds. Even the parking lot of the Interpretive Center abounds with opportunity as rare Peregrine Falcon nest in the cliffs surrounding the center.
On those days when only the hardiest brave the elements, the Interpretive Center is full of information and exhibits about the lighthouse and the wildlife. It is here you will learn than construction of the lighthouse began in 1871. For two years, construction materials were hauled up the cliff from the beach. At the time, travel by sea was faster and easier than travels by wagon over the six mile path from Newport. In all, 370,000 bricks, plus iron work, glass and equipment made the difficult trip onto the beach and up the cliff to be included in the tower we see today from our car or a ship nineteen miles out to sea.
The lighthouse remains an important navigational aid and will provide guidance to vessels for a long time to come. The wildlife areas and preserves will benefit all even longer.
Sam and Debbie think it is worth driving seventeen hundred miles in a motor home to see a lighthouse.
“We love working for BLM and Forestry. So far we have volunteered in North Carolina, South Dakota, Florida, Virginia and Washington DC, and we will do it again. It is nice to have time to see more than just the vacation hot spots and get to know the people.”-
Story and photos by Patrick McGinty©2013