A Must-See Coastal Oregon Landmark and Destination
The history of the Oregon coast areas has long been tied to the ocean and to shipping and fishing industries, and this heritage is still going strong today. Nearly everywhere you travel along the stunning seashore, you’ll find marine exhibits and activities, excellent seafood, and other attractions with maritime connections. One must-see landmark that goes back to the early days of state’s shipping history is the Umpqua Lighthouse, which is the focal point of Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.
The First Oregon Coast Lighthouse
The first lighthouse on the Oregon coast was built in 1857 on the north end of the Umpqua River at the entrance to Winchester Bay. Battered by storms and flood conditions throughout the 1860s that weakened the foundation, the lighthouse toppled into the river and was destroyed in 1864. The lighthouse was rebuilt in its current location on the south side of Winchester Bay between 1891 and 1894.
The lighthouse, which stands 65 feet tall, is known for its unique red and white flashing beacon. The tower, brick overlaid with cement plaster, is five feet thick at the base and tapers to 21 inches thick at the parapet. Its first-order Fresnel lens is six feet in diameter by 10 feet high and weighs two tons. Its 616 prisms were hand cut in Paris in 1890. Illumination changed from oil to electricity in 1934, and the lighthouse was automated in 1966.
A museum located in a nearby historical Coast Guard building provides information as well as gifts and souvenirs. Both the lighthouse and the museum are maintained by the Douglas County Parks Department. The lighthouse is still actively used to aid navigation in the coastal Oregon area, and the grounds immediately surrounding the lighthouse are closed to the public. However, tours of the lighthouse are offered May 1 through September 30.
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park Offers a
Lighthouse, Lakes, and a Whole Lot More
The lighthouse is one of the main attractions at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, located off U.S. Highway 101, six miles south of Reedsport. Situated slightly inland from the coast in the sand dunes of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the lighthouse offers views of the surrounding terrain. Many travelers combine their visit to the park with a day spent exploring the dunes. Information about the trails and services at the dunes can be obtained from the Oregon Dunes visitor center in Reedsport or by visiting the website for the Siuslaw National Forest, which encompasses the dunes.
Also adding to this state park’s appeal is Lake Marie, a small body of freshwater trapped among the dunes. Fishing and non-motorized boating are popular activities. In addition to a mile-long hiking trail around the lake, there is a sandy beach for swimmers and sunbathers.
Visitors to the park comment on the peacefulness of the surroundings enhanced by the sound of the ocean as a constant accompaniment. In the fall, huckleberries along the hiking trails make for a good snack or a natural way to sweeten the morning cereal or pancakes.
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park Camping
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park offers year-round camping with tent, cabin and RV sites with full hookups. For a more unique camping experience, spend the night in one of the park’s yurts. These round structures consist of a sturdy, wooden lattice covered in canvas. They have a skylight and a locking, wooden door. Rustic yurts measure 16 feet in diameter and come with heat, lights and electricity with beds to sleep up to five people. The deluxe yurts are larger and also include bathrooms with showers, kitchens and TV/VCRs. Many of the camping sites and structures overlook Lake Marie, providing serene views and easy water access.
Day use of the park is free, while camping rates range from $4 for hiker/biker sites to $65 for deluxe yurts in the high season, which runs from May 1 to September 30. Like many coastal Oregon state parks, Umpqua offers reduced rates in the off season, or “Discovery Season,” which runs from October 1 to April 30.
Other Oregon State Parks and
Oregon Coast Area Attractions
In addition to the dunes, there are a number of other state parks nearby Umpqua Lighthouse. Tugman State Park, Bolon Island State Park, Umpqua Wayside State Park, Millicoma Myrtle Grove State Park, and Golden and Silver Falls State Park, are all within easy driving distance, as is Elliot State Forest. Other nearby attractions include Darlingtonia State Natural Site, an 18-acre botanical garden featuring carnivorous Darlingtonia pitcher plants, Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, home to up to 100 Roosevelt elk, and Salmon Harbor with its large fishing fleet. Here you can charter a boat to do a little fishing or your own, or stroll through the collection of restaurants and shops.
With all that this area has to offer, you’ll want to plan for several days of exploring. Many travelers choose to set up camp in one of the RV parks and campgrounds in nearby Reedsport or Lakeside and venture out on day trips to surrounding destinations.
For more information about Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, call 1-800-551-6949 or visit the state parks website here.