Date of visit: July 15, 2018
It was a hot weekend in Portland – up in the mid 90s. Thank goodness we had planned to go to the coast. Back around Christmas we read an article in The Oregonian about things to do in Newport so it has been on our radar for a while. The biggest draw is the Oregon Aquarium – which I’ll cover in the next post. Newport is not the closest coastal city to Portland but it is a nice – non-weekend – drive down Highways 99 and 18 over to US 101 and down the coast through Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.
We stopped for lunch at Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay – which is up on a bluff overlooking the ocean – and we got a treat – whales! There is a pod of whales that stick around the Oregon coast rather than migrating as north and south. That’s a treat for us.
After winding our way down a busy US 101 through Lincoln City we hit our first stop – Yaquina Head and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Here is a Google Maps view of the area. Yaquina Head is a National Park – so entrance is free if you are senior citizen with a lifetime park pass. Otherwise I think the cost is less that $10 per car.
We were blessed with a beautiful calm blue day and could see far down Nye Beach to the south.
We could see maybe 3 to 6 whales working the buffet off the coast. They seemed to be setting bubble nets by going in a circle leaving a trail of bubbles – which I think they do to catch their food – then swim through the circle to feed. I tried and tried to get pictures of the whales but most all you could see is big gray humps occasionally breaking the surface. Twice we saw whales blow a bit. The best picture I could get is this extreme zoom on a whale that seems to have one of his pectoral fins out of the water.
We were also treated to a flock of brown pelicans skimming the water.
We took the stairs down to Cobble Beach to get a closer look at the water. Cobble Beach is a young beach – the ocean hasn’t broken the basalt rock down to sand yet – the closer you get to the water’s edge, the smaller the rocks are.
The main attraction is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse which has been in operation since the Gilded Age – late 19th century. Before the lighthouse was built, ships moving up the Oregon coast would have to anchor each night because they couldn’t navigate the rugged shore. For this reason, lighthouses are under the Department of Commerce
There are tours every hour – our docent knew his history and walked us through the lighthouse. He was dressed in the uniform of a Lighthouse Keeper – note the embroidered “K” on his jacket lapel. We were applicants for the job of second keeper.
Back in the day the lamp fuel was refined lard – pig fat. It was stored in three 100 gallon vats.
The vat room is on the ground floor always had a small fire going in order to keep the lard liquid. It would be carried up to the lamp a few gallons at a time.
It was time to head up the circular stairs attached to the inside walls.
I was so excited I forgot I hate heights until I was on the third step. This is an old staircase and we had to ascend in groups of six. After the first group of six make their way to a landing the next group could start.
Eventually we made our way up to the light room. It is now lit by a halogen light rather than pig lard – but it still uses the original 1st order Fresnel Lens which focuses the light so it can be seen 19 miles out to sea.
After spending a few hours it was time to head a few miles south to our vacation headquarters. Walking back to the car I couldn’t pass up this final view looking up to the Yaquina Head bluff.
More adventures await; please stay tuned