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An Oregon Coast Staple
The Cape Meares lighthouse isn’t known for standing tall on the Oregon Coast, but was a crucial part of keeping ships safe for nearly a century of maritime history.
When in operation, The Cape Meares lighthouse was well known on the Oregon Coast for its signature red and white light. The 38-foot iron-plated structure featured an oil lamp and a reflector to maximize the lifesaving illumination, and warned passing ships of coastal dangers with 30 seconds of white light followed by 5 seconds of red light. Cape Meares is also one of the few lighthouses that never had a foghorn.
The History of Cape Meares Lighthouse
Built in 1889, and commissioned in 1890, Cape Meares lighthouse was built to guide ships along the jagged Oregon coast. Accompanying the lighthouse construction were two keeper’s houses. To store the oil that kept the light in operation, two oil storage buildings were also built on the cape, east of the lighthouse. Both were constructed with thick walls to protect the surrounding land in case of fire.
In 1934, electricity was brought to the Cape Meares lighthouse, and the oil buildings were removed. In 1963, the lighthouse ended its career guiding ships on the Oregon coast and was decommissioned. A newer structure was built to replace the outdated one. The new concrete structure had a beacon and gave off brighter light. Essentially abandoned for years, the Cape Meares lighthouse succumbed to the relentless weather of the Oregon coast, as well as many delinquents vandalizing the unique structure. Through all this, the lighthouse continued to stand.
Finally, the site was gifted to the Oregon State Parks Department. Unfortunately the lighthouse keeper’s quarters had to be demolished thanks to ensuing damages, and a few lenses from the lighthouse were replaced before the site was open to the public, as it is today.
Visiting Cape Meares on the Oregon Coast
Today, the Cape Meares Lighthouse site is tourist friendly and features ample parking. Just next to the parking lot is a wooden deck built up for ideal viewing of the waves crashing into the cliff face. The railing features plaques explaining information about the area.
From here, you walk down a paved pathway that takes you through a forest of trees. A small opening contains another educational viewing area and has plaques about native wildlife, specifically sea birds of the Pacific Ocean. The pathway continues straight down to the tiny lighthouse, another pathway leads down the other edge of the cliff face and eventually to Cape Meares Lighthouse from the side.
When you first happen upon the lighthouse, it is surprising how short it is. From the back, it almost seems as if it is built on a cliff face much lower. The next thing to draw you in is the stunning red color in the glass. The Cape Meares lighthouse is a crucial part of the Oregon Coast that is still standing thanks to those who fought to save it.
15 minutes to 1 hour