Nine miles north of Port Orford on the southern Oregon Coast, Cape Blanco extends out one-and-one-half miles into the sea. Discovered by early Spanish explorers who named it the White Cape due to its chalky, white appearance, Blanco is the most western point in Oregon.
The Cape Blanco Lighthouse which was built in about 1870 has a long history of the struggles and extreme effort it took to build the Oregon Coast lighthouses when there was no road access. Remember the Sand Highway? Most of the supplies had to be shipped in and at least one ship wrecked losing its cargo trying to get building materials and supplies to the site.
An entire forest was felled in order to provide clear space to build this particular lighthouse. Because of its extension out from the land coast, Blanco was an ideal place to position this kind of aide to mariners and still is. The felling of the forest provided timber to build, the plus of mitigating the possibility of forest fire threatening the structure and cut down on the amount of fog in the area.
Many of the bricks used to build the lighthouse were made on site to save the cost of shipping them in from San Francisco. A hole 5 feet deep was dug to provide for a 4 foot concrete foundation for the light house. A duplex was built to house the main lighthouse keeper on one side and his two assistant keepers on the other side.
This lighthouse had two main purposes. One was to warn ships away from the reefs that protruded out from the cape. The second was to give a fixed position for navigation. The modern day lighthouse continues to serve both purposes as do most of the Oregon lighthouses. The housing is gone but the lighthouse is well cared for and functional.
We have visited Cape Blanco Lighthouse twice so far on day trips from Umpqua River Haven. From the coast Highway 101 it is about a 14 mile drive out to the lighthouse. A very scenic and worthwhile jaunt passing the historic Hughes House and Ranch on the way opening up to your first view of the lighthouse.
The views north and south of the lighthouse display the rugged coastline.
On one of our family visits the Fresnel Lens had been vandalized by local teens from Port Orford. The process of restoring the glass is a lengthy and complicated one but was in the works. My young grandchildren could not understand why anyone would want to harm this beautiful lighthouse.
Tours of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse are scheduled so be sure to check for a current schedule before driving out to see it. Cost is $2.00 for 16 and up and free under 15.
Tour schedule: April – October 31, Wed – Monday 10 am – 3:30 pm. Last tour ticket sold at 3:15 pm. Gates close at 3:30 pm. Closed Tuesdays. You will climb up to view the lens and coast vistas from the elevated vantage point. Our next blog will be about the Historic Hughes House which you will want to tour also so plan to spend much of the day here. There is also an historic family cemetery of interest.