April 3, 2019 — The Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most iconic and spectacular locations on the Oregon Coast. Often referred to as the most photographed lighthouse in America, the adjacent home, which once housed the lighthouse keepers and their families, is now known as The Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, which hosted a party Saturday, March 30, for the community.
The celebration was in recognition of the 125 years since the lighthouse was first lit and the spacious lawn and panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean were the perfect backdrop for the spring birthday party.
Members of Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River were on hand to begin the afternoon with a stirring opening ceremony. Hot dogs, popcorn, desserts and beverages were provided, free of charge to visitors, and the line was long at the food booths.
The lighthouse is named after Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta and construction on the site began in 1892. There were no roads along the coast in the 1890’s so travel and transport of materials was difficult, especially during winter months.
The lumber and cement needed to build an adequate residence for lightkeepers had to be brought by horse drawn wagon or dropped in the ocean by supply ship and ferried to land.
Remarkably, the construction of the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters took just over a year and cost only $80,000.
The U.S. Lighthouse Service lit the wick of the original coal oil lamp on March 30, 1894. That light, produced by concentric wicks and then magnified by a 392-prism British-made Fresnel lens, equaled 80,000 candle power.
Its visibility — 21 miles from shore — was limited only by the curvature of the earth.
The original clockworks that rotated the lamp consisted of a 35-foot cable attached to a 200-pound weight that dropped through the middle of the tower to a weight room.
A lightkeeper hand cranked the weight every four hours. Electrical power arrived in 1934, and a bulb replaced the oil lamp.
The light now uses a 1,000-watt quartz bulb that produces 2.5 million candle power to emit one ash every 10 seconds.
The lighthouse operated with human keepers until automation took over in 1963 and the location was turned over to Lane Community College (LCC) and then to the Oregon Parks and Rec-reation Department in 2001.
In 1963, the light became fully automated. Responsibility for the lighthouse and the keepers house was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in 2001.
Rangers from the Oregon State Park system now conduct guided tours of the lighthouse from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather and staff permitting. Self-guided interpretive panels are located along trail to lighthouse if you visit during non-staffed hours.
Tour groups, school groups and other groups may schedule a program, and these can be scheduled for any day of the week.
Tours currently only cover the outdoor area, around the base of the lighthouse, and the ground floor of the tower. Tours of the upper levels are not available at this time. There is however, a trail just before the lighthouse which allows visitors a viewpoint of the lens.
Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint is located in a cove at the mouth of Cape Creek.
There are picnic tables sheltered from the wind and a great view of the ocean located just a short distance from the lighthouse.
This area is open to visitors all year round as is access to the grounds of the lighthouse.
For more information on The Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast call 541-547-3696.