A Lonely Nightfall at North Head Lighthouse

Despite sitting out on a secluded cliff over the Pacific, the old North Head Lighthouse is easy to access; I’ve done it dozens of times. As such, it’s a popular spot to stop and take in the view, but I’ve never found it crowded and usually have the place to myself.

With all the visits I have noticed one thing in particular which I’m not sure if it’s true of all lighthouses or just this one, but it never feels the same when I visit the old sentinel. Over active imagination influence by the changing weather? Hard to tell.

North Head Lighthouse


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Behind the Photo

I took this photo at nightfall just after a winter storm had passed through the area. I could hear the storm waves breaking at the base of the cliffs and the cry of gulls as they came out after the storm. Just as the sun was slipping beneath the horizon there was a part in the clouds which gave the backdrop to the towering lighthouse just the right amount of color.

By coming in close and shooting up I was hoping to capture the strength and presence of the lighthouse. By keeping the details lost in the shadows and exposing for the light above I was trying to also convey just how lonely the spot felt at the moment. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

North Head Lighthouse

The area has been called, “The Graveyard of the Pacific”, and with good reason. An estimated 2000 plus ships have been lost between the mouth of the Columbia River and British Columbia. At least 200 have been lost directly in the locale.

The North Head Lighthouse was actually the second of a pair that was built at the mouth of this boat killing river bar. Why two? Well, the first, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse built in 1856 couldn’t be seen by mariners approaching from the north until they were right on the bar. North Head lite it’s light for the first time on May 16, 1898.

I don’t know of a lighthouse I’ve ever visited or read about that didn’t have some tragic story associated with it and North Head is no different. The very first keeper, Alexander Pesonen,  lost his wife Mary to a tragic accident when she apparently fell from the cliffs surrounding the lighthouse. You can read more about the story here.

Sadly the last keeper of the light left his post on July 1, 1961. However the story doesn’t end there. Currently the lighthouse is under the care of Washington State Parks. The lightkeeper houses are open for overnight bookings and the lighthouse itself is often open for tours. However be sure to check here as it does close for periodic maintenance.


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