The Oregon Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of ten publicly owned lighthouses found along the Oregon Coast. This particular structure is located midway between Florence and Yachats. The area surrounding the lighthouse is a State Scenic Viewpoint, operated by the state parks division. The 56 foot tall light is built midway up a 205 foot headland. Its light shines a beam that can be seen for 21 miles, and is the strongest lighthouse found on the Oregon Coast.
Today, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department maintains the lighthouse. The assistant lighthouse keeper’s dwelling is maintained by the US Forest Service and operated as a bed and breakfast. Just two miles from the lighthouse tourists can visit the Sea Lion Caves.
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Bruno de Heceta, a Spanish explorer worked the Pacific Coast in the late 18th century. Native Americans had used the spots for fishing and hunting many years prior. The first white settlers moved to the area in 1888 and claimed 164 acres as their own. In the same year, the US lighthouse service appropriated funds for building the lighthouse and 19 of the 164 acres were bought for that purpose.
A crew of 56 men constructed the tower in 1892. The secluded site made shipping of building materials difficult. As weather and tides permitted, some were brought by boat. Others were shipped by wagon from Florence, a five hour trip to carry materials a mere 13 miles. Stones for construction were collected from the Clackamas River and San Francisco provided the bricks, allowing the $80,000 project to be completed in August 1893.
The lighthouse and remaining keeper’s quarters were designated a historic place in 1978 due to the engineering and architectural significance. Many of the original buildings, including the single family home for the head lighthouse keeper were demolished before this time. When the light was electrified, the staff was reduced and automation in 1963 allowed the last of the lighthouse keepers to move away. The Forest Service took over management of the residence in 1970.
There are reports of the ghost of an elderly housekeeper, Rue, who haunts the keepers quarters. Sightings include a visible apparition, objects that are moved and occasional house cleaning. Most of the time, Rue is sited in the attic by individuals observing from the outside.
To visit this historic lighthouse, travelers should leave I-5 at Eugene and travel west on State Highway 126. Once they reach US 101 they will want to travel north approximately 13 miles. Travelers may want to stop for lunch at Florence as there are no food services available at the lighthouse itself.