North Head Lighthouse

It’s been some time since I’ve been in this neck of the woods but it’s always been one of my favorite. Long swell swept beaches, headlands, and not one but two lighthouses just a stone throw from each other. It’s a long story how this area ended up with two lighthouses so close to each other, but it’s not totally unheard of either. Still never look a gift horse in the mouth as they say. This shot takes a bit of bush whacking to set up; but it’s a labor of love. Even when it’s done during a storm.

North Head Lighthouse

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North Head Lighthouse

So how did two lighthouses end up so close together?

After Cape Disappointment Lightstation was established in 1856 to mark the entrance to the Columbia River, mariners approaching the river from the north complained they could not see the light until they had nearly reached the river. Their cry for an additional lighthouse was supported by the many shipwrecks that occurred along the Long Beach Peninsula, just north of the cape.

In 1889, the Lighthouse Board threw their support behind a new lighthouse at North Head, and on February 15, 1893, Congress authorized the construction of a lighthouse on North Head at a cost not exceeding $50,000, and it then provided the first $25,000 on August 18, 1894, and the additional $25,000 on March 2, 1895. Bids for constructing a wagon road to the construction site from the target grounds at nearby Fort Canby were opened on July 15, 1895, but as the lowest bid greatly exceeded the estimate, the road was built by hired labor with materials purchased on the open market.

A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef. – Navjot Singh Sidhu

Designed by Carl W. Leick, North Head Lighthouse consists of brick masonry built atop a sandstone foundation and finished with a cement plaster overlay. Sixty-nine steps lead to the lantern room, which is sixty-five feet from the ground and 194 feet above sea level. The first-order, Louis Sauter & Co. Fresnel lens, which was transferred from Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, was lit for the first time on May 16, 1898.

Since North Head is only two miles north of Cape Disappointment, the two lights needed distinct signatures. A fixed-white characteristic was chosen for North Head, while Cape Disappointment displayed alternating red and white flashes.

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