Cape Lookout, Cape Lookout State Park

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Cape Lookout, Cape Lookout State Park

by | Jul 2, 2021

Cape Lookout is a narrow basalt headland about 2 miles (3.2 km) long with vertical sea cliffs 800 feet (244 m) high within Siuslaw National Forest, about 26 miles (42 km) north of Lincoln City and 11 miles (18 km) southwest of Tillamook, Oregon. The cape is a remnant of massive lava flows from roughly 16 million years ago, when Grand Ronde Basalt from eastern Oregon poured west-southwest more than two hundred miles into the Pacific Ocean. The name is from July 1788 when Captain John Meares, a British explorer and fur trader, gave the name “Cape Lookout” to the massive promontory forming the southern shore of Tillamook Bay. However, in 1850 and 1853, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey misapplied the name to the headland 10 miles (16 km) to the south, and the name became widely used among mariners. The cartographic mistake was realized in 1857 by George Davidson, and the was resolved by naming the more northerly cape after Captain Meares.

The U.S. Lighthouse Service had retained land on both Cape Lookout and Cape Meares for a possible lighthouse. In 1886, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers examined both headlands and concluded that a lighthouse on Cape Lookout would be at a higher elevation than usual and would suffer from fogs that would obscure and dim the light. Further, there was no freshwater supply, and getting construction materials to the site would be difficult. In 1887, the Lighthouse Board approved funds for a lighthouse at Cape Meares rendering the Cape Lookout land surplus. In 1935, the U.S. Lighthouse Service gifted 975 acres (395 ha) on the headland for Cape Lookout State Park. The sandspit north of the cape between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean was acquired from the Great Northern Railway through a land exchange and a donation. The Sand Lake Recreation Area is located south of Cape Lookout.

On August 2, 1943, a U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17F bomber crashed on the cape killing nine fliers and seriously injuring the bombardier Second Lieutenant Wilbur L. Perez. The crew was scheduled to fly a final navigation training mission prior to being deployed overseas as a combat crew. The B-17F took off from Pendleton Field, Oregon, and was to fly to Cape Disappointment and then 500 miles (806 km) out to sea and then return directly to Pendleton Field. Heavy cloud covered the coastal region when the B-17 arrived in the area at 10,000 feet (3,049 m), the overcast topping out at about 8,000 feet (2,439 m). In an attempt to locate Cape Disappointment visually, the pilot descended through the overcast and then flew the airplane toward the shore. The flight towards the shore was made at an altitude of 50 to 150 feet (15-45 m), in near-zero visibility. However, the pilot must have become doubtful about approaching land at such a low altitude and visibility and a climb into the overcast was started a moment or two before the crash. The elevation of the point of impact was approximately 900 feet (274 m). Investigators stated that some of the crew had survived the crash but died before they could be rescued. It took a full day for search crews to reach the crash site and rescue one surviving member of the flight crew. See a short video here Part I and Part II. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Lookout here:

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