Tillamook Rock Light, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Tillamook Rock Light, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

by | Jun 3, 2021

Tillamook Rock Light is a deactivated lighthouse located about 1.3 miles (2km) west of Tillamook Head, about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Astoria and 34 miles (39 km) north-northwest of Tillamook, Oregon. The lighthouse was built on a small basalt islet to mark the southern approach to the mouth of the Columbia River located 20 miles (32 km) to the north. Today, the lighthouse is decommissioned and Tillamook Rock is privately owned but still part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge providing habitat for seabirds and Steller sea lions.

In October 1879, the U.S. Lighthouse Board began construction of the lighthouse with the assistance of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Thomas Corwin, and after 575 days the light was activated on January 21, 1881. The structure of the lighthouse included an attached lightkeeper‘s quarters and a tower 62 feet (19 m) high. The tower originally housed a first-order Fresnel lens, with an incandescent oil vapor lamp, 133 feet (41 m) above sea level. The light had a visible range of 18 miles (29 km) and was fixed with a steam foghorn. Duty at Tillamook Light was considered difficult due to the isolation from civilization, and exposure to severe storms. The light was nicknamed “Terrible Tilly”, for the living conditions. Following a storm in 1912, the windows of the residential quarters were cemented over and replaced by small portholes. On October 21, 1934, the original Fresnel lens was destroyed by a large storm with winds of 109 miles per hour (175 km/h) and waves that launched boulders and debris into the tower. The Fresnel lens was replaced by an aerobeacon, and a metal mesh placed around the lantern room to protect the tower from large boulders.

From 1900 to 1917, the steamer Sue H. Elmore made frequent visits to Tillamook Rock to provide medical assistance and additional rations for the lightkeepers. The U.S. Lighthouse Service built lighthouse tenders from 1910 until its merger into the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. The U.S. Lighthouse Tender Rose was launched in 1916 and served until 1947. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ivy served the lighthouse from 1947 to 1957. Frequent storm damage and difficult access contributed to this being the most expensive U.S. lighthouse to operate and the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1957 and sold to private owners. Read more here and here. See a short video here. Explore more of Tillamook Rock here:

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