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May 29, 2015

Lighting the way

Story by Angelo Bruscas | Photos by Greg Johnston

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To shed some light on the history and the geography of the Washington Coast, there’s nothing better than a visit to one of the five lighthouses that still stand guard from the Columbia River to Cape Flattery.

Some of the best history can be found in a visit to the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, which can be reached at Westport Light State Park.

Dating back to the 1890s, an estimated 50 ships had wrecked near the entrance to Grays Harbor before the beacon was lit in a public gathering on June 30, 1898.

Grays Harbor Westport 13rgb-72dpiGrays harbor lighthouse – Westport: This beacon was lit on June 30, 1898 and stands 107 feet tall.

“Standing 107 feet tall, the octagonal tower is the tallest lighthouse in Washington, and the third tallest on the West Coast. The base of the lighthouse rests on a twelve-foot-thick foundation of sandstone. The lighthouse walls, which are four feet thick at the base, are made of brick with a coating of cement on the exterior. A series of 135 metal stairs lead to the lantern room. Windows originally provided light for the interior of the tower, but to cut down on maintenance, they were cemented over when the station was electrified.”

In 1898, the lighthouse stood just 400 feet from the high tide line, but massive amounts of accretion, due in large part to the jetty system put in place at the entrance to Grays Harbor, have since built up, and the lighthouse currently stands approximately 3,000 feet from the shore.

Northhead 10rgb-72dpiNorth Head lighthouse – Ilwaco: Built in 1898, located in Ft. Canby State Park with panoramic views of the Pacific.

Cape Flattery Lighthouse – Tatoosh Island, Neah Bay: Built in 1857, this is one of the oldest still standing and operating lighthouses on the West Coast. It marks the most westerly spot in the lower 48 and can be viewed from a trail on the Makah Indian Reservation.

Lens 12rgb-72dpiDestruction Island Lighthouse – Ruby Beach: Located three miles out to sea and built in 1891 it is now a solar powered lighthouse. The original First Order Fresnel lens is magnificently displayed at the Westport Marine Museum. Considered one of the best lens displays in the world, according to website

www.pacific101.com.