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Cape Meares Lighthouse - A Short Drive to a Hidden Park

Why Visit Cape Meares Lighthouse?

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Oregon features some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. The Pacific Northwest is known for its lush green landscapes and cool coastal lines. The beauty of this area can be unparalleled. However, it may go unnoticed that it is also a state that features some of the most scenic lighthouses in the country. The truth is that along Oregon's coast sit some of the most historic and interesting lighthouses in existence.

One lighthouse that does not disappoint is the Cape Meares Lighthouse.

Located approximately 10 miles west of Tillamook, Oregon the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the surrounding state park, has a lot to offer visitors. It is set amongst some of the most stunning landscapes that Oregon has to offer.

The great thing about this lighthouse is that it is set within a park that is open year round from 7 am to sunset. The lighthouse itself is open for visitors from April to October for select hours during the day. Perhaps one of the best pieces of news for visitors is that admission to the Cape Meares Lighthouse is actually free. (Donations are gladly accepted!)

History of Cape Meares Lighthouse

Historic Cape Meares Lighthouse

The Cape Meares Lighthouse has quite a bit of history behind it.  The lighthouse was named for Captain John Meares. He was actually the first European person to sail into the area, and is responsible for initially naming Tillamook Bay the rather descriptive name of Quick Sand Bay.

In 1890 there was a commission issued to build the lighthouse. Construction began on the 38-foot tower, which is notable because it is actually the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. The tower is made of sturdy bricks and iron plates, and built upon a foundation of concrete. The lighthouse is white with black trim, and the tower has an octagonal shape. Initially the lighthouse operated with an oil lamp, but through the years, it had been updated to use electric lights.

The beacon's original light was a five wick oil lamp, with a reflector behind the wicks to increase the light. The light was turned by a 200 pound lead weight that was wound by the light keepers. This system is similar to the grandfather clocks in your house. There were two oil storage buildings located next to the lighthouse, that stored over 3,000 gallons of oil. The oil was delivered in 5-gallon containers. The walls of the oil storage buildings were constructed to be 15-inches thick to protect the lighthouse and the lighthouse keepers from fire incase the oil storage facility caught fire.

The light was maintained for many years, and was finally deactivated in 1963 because a new electric beacon was constructed on a metal tower nearby. Unfortunately the keepers quarters were demolished in the late 1960s. Cape Meares New LighthouseAfter the lighthouse was decommissioned in the 1960s, it fell into quite a bit of disrepair. In fact, it became quite a site for vandalism.

However, in 1991 the "Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse Wildlife Refuge was formed. This is a group of people who wanted to preserve the historic lighthouse. To date this is the organization that maintains and runs the tours that operate through the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Today, you can visit the lighthouse thanks to their efforts.

Cape Meares Activities

Visitors to the Cape Meares can expect quite a bit to keep them busy.  Of course, there are the free tours through the lighthouse itself.  Additionally, there are beautiful scenic tours for you to stroll through, and for those who are interested the area offers some of the best bird watching in the state. 

What else can you do?

Walk the trails. Have a picnic lunch. Visit the Octopus Tree. Explore the lighthouse (be sure to call for guided tour!) Bird watching. Whale watching. Relaxing.

Tip: Do be sure and kept track of your children. Some of the trails lead to steep cliffs.

The Cape Meares Lighthouse may be lesser known, but it is definitely not to be missed.  By making time to visit it, you will enrich your trip to Oregon in a way that will not soon be forgotten!

Directions to Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse is located on the Three Capes Scenic Loop, which is just off of highway US101. Follow highway US101 to Tillamook. In Tillamook, look for the brown signs directing you to Cape Meares lighthouse and the Three Capes Scenic Loop. Take the loop west. You will have to travel about 10 miles. You wonder if you will ever get there, but drive safe and be patient.

The park does not have a fee for either parking or use. But as I explained above, your donations to the Friends of Cape Meares help maintain the lighthouse. Please be generous.

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