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Aug-13-2006 17:11printcomments

Heceta Head Lighthouse is Magic on The Oregon Coast

Heceta Head is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.

Various Heceta Head
All photos by: Kevin Hays

(FLORENCE) - It is pronounced “Ha – SEE – Ta” by most, “HECK – ah – Ta” by others, but everyone agrees Heceta Head is one of the most beautiful and magical lighthouses in the world.

Explorer Heceta's map

The area is named for Captain Don Bruno de Hezeta (Heceta) of the Spanish Royal Navy, an explorer whose expedition passed along the Oregon coast around 1775.

In 1775, Heceta, set out from San Blas, Mexico with 45 men and provisions for a year-long mission to reach the Arctic Circle and claim points enroute for Spain.

He made it as far as the Columbia River, before turning back due to concern for his sailors who were stricken with scurvy. On his journey he noted the headland, which now bears his name.

Construction of the lighthouse began in 1892. Lumber came from local mills, the masonry and cement came from San Francisco, and rock used in the base of the tower was quarried from the Clackamas River near Oregon City.

Laborers were paid $2 a day and worked an average of ten hours a day. The highest paid carpenter received $4 a day.

One thousand barrels of blasting powder were required to create a flat table on the rocky cliffs. Heceta remained an extremely isolated outpost until the 1930's when road crews arrived with their families and tents to construct Route 101, the Pacific Coast Highway.

The tower is 56 feet tall with a focal plane of 205 feet above sea level. The most powerful light along the Oregon coast,with it’s “first order” Fresnel lens, the light can be seen 21 miles out to sea and is only stopped by the curvature of the earth.

The first-order Fresnel lens was manufactured by Chance Brothers of Bermingham (Smethwick), England and is one of three manufactured by the company that were used in American lighthouses, the other two lighthouses being Point Cabrillo, CA, and Staten Island, NY. The lens contains eight panels, with 640 prisms, each 2 inches thick.

The light shown for the first time on March 30, 1894, lit by Andrew Hald, the first “headkeeper”.

The lighthouse received additional visitors during World War II. Patrols assigned to the coast between Florence and Yachats were stationed in barracks built on the site of the principal keeper's residence.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse and Light Keeper’s house are circa 1894. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Heceta Head Keeper’s House is perched on a cliff with a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean and the beach below. Paths from the Keeper’s House lead both to the beach and to the lighthouse.

The Queen Anne style Keeper’s House has been restored to its original splendor. It now serves as an Interpretive Center by day and a Bed and Breakfast by night. The B&B welcomes guests year around. Guests are encouraged to view the lighthouse after dark, a rare experience. The awesome sight in the sky while standing at the base of the tower can only be described as “Magical.”

Tours are given daily, March through October, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM The lighthouse observation area is open year round during park hours. To arrange a tour beyond the regular tour season please call (800) 551-6949.

Directions: The lighthouse is located at Heceta Head State Park (which includes Devil's Elbow State Park). The park entrance is off US 101, 13 miles north of Florence.


Comments are Closed on this story.

Anonymous August 14, 2006 8:24 am (Pacific time)

Great picture of the Fresnel lens. I haven't seen anything like that on any of the lighthouse websites. That must be a one and a million shot. Good work.

Thomas August 13, 2006 8:39 pm (Pacific time)

Don't forget the parking lot requires an Oregon State Park parking permit. A daily pass can be purchased on site though for $3.

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