Day 11, we decided to chill a little and stay around the camp site. We opted to walk up to the lighthouse and take the tour. Umpqua lighthouse is one of several down the Oregon coast. There’s a neat brochure by the Oregon State Parks that tells us the following about it:
Umpqua is the second lighthouse to occupy this site. An earlier structure built in 1857 was the first lighthouse sited on the Oregon coast; it succumbed to erosion in 1861. The Umpqua River lighthouse is nearly identical to the one at Heceta Head, and both lights were illuminated in 1894, but the Umpqua lens emits distinctive red-and-white automated flashes.
I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the mention that the first lighthouse only lasted four years before succumbing to erosion. Er… this is in the middle of dune country for goodness sake!
Umpqua River lighthouse
Anyway, we paid the few dollars for the guided tour and a student from the museum opened up the lighthouse and tried to answer our questions. The staircase was interesting in that it was free-standing and not attached to the brick walls at all.
Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse
We could get right up into the light assembly and clearly see the Fresnel lenses that are such a feature of lighthouses. The cunning Frenchman revolutionised lighthouses by figuring out how to produce a relatively light (no pun intended) lens to massively concentrate the light into a beam that could travel many miles out to sea.
The Umpqua River lighthouse has a “signature” that includes red as well as white flashes.
2 white, 1 red… Umpqua’s “signature” for passing shipping to identify their position.
One other feature of Umpqua River lighthouse was that it had an auto-changer so that should the bulb fail, a second back-up lamp could automatically be brought into service. In this photo it can clearly be seen to the right of the currently illuminated bulb. (Now that WAS a deliberate pun).
The business end – 1kW bulb with auto-changer
The descent down the iron staircase lent itself to some arty shots. However, I only managed this one…
The way back down the stairs
After the lighthouse, we walked down to the beach and snagged a geocache on the way. Turning my back on the canoodling couple in an oh-so-English way I took a few shots of the old pilings left in the sand. I’m not sure of their original use – perhaps there used to be a fish processing plant her in days gone by.
Pilings left from some old structure
As we ambled up the spit to the South of the river exit, there were some interesting geological forms in the large rocks that had been used as erosion barriers.
Holy rock Batman!
This was clearly a favourite walk for locals and tourists and there were a few hints that bonfires had taken place in the past. I was struck by the patterns at the detail level in the carbonised wood.
A charred log on the beach
There was a Coastguard tower though we were told at the museum that there was little need for it these days and only punishment shifts were ever posted there. It certainly looked highly automated at the casual glance.
At the end of the breakwater, a triangular area had been enclosed. Though still tidal, it was entirely sheltered and was now an oyster farm.
Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon
As we started to head back to the road we had a sea-level view up at the lighthouse nestled against the treeline. It looked solid and comfortable. Surely it looks even more so in a raging storm. The apparent quiet was short-lived though. Down here in the dunes was a huge campsite that was the exclusive domain of “boys with toys” and we had to watch out for 8 year old lads on motorbikes and ATVs on their way to erode the dunes with their pot-bellied dads in dune buggies.
Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach