The original Umpqua River Lighthouse was the first lighthouse built in the Oregon territory. It was originally built at the mouth of the Umpqua River in 1857 it was a brick tower rising from the Keepers quarters, it stood 100-feet above sea level and housed a third order lens with a fixed white signal. Flooding began to undermine the lighthouse, as the sand was washed away the lighthouse began to lean as it endured more flooding and the sand being undermined it was eventually destroyed and fell into the Umpqua River in February of 1864.
In 1891 they began construction of a new Lighthouse but this time not at the mouth of the Umpqua River. They began construction of the new Lighthouse in its present location just south of Winchester at the opening of the Winchester bay, although they kept the name of the Lighthouse as Umpqua River Lighthouse. The new Lighthouse was completed in 1894, this new lighthouse has a first order Fresnel lens; the lens is 6-feet in diameter at its base, it stands 10-feet high and weighs 2-tons. The glass in the Fresnel lens was hand cut in Paris France in 1890, it has 616 prisms and has 24-bulls-eyes, 8 are covered with red glass, the remaining 16 are clear glass, the positioning of the bulls-eyes are alternating 2 clear lenses and 1 red; as the lens would turn on chariot wheels at the base of the lens the bulls-eyes would pass in front of the light it would create 2 white flashes of light followed by 1 red flash which is the flash signature of the new Umpqua River Lighthouse. The light of this new lighthouse was originally fueled by oil; it was changed from oil to electricity in 1934. The tower of Umpqua River Lighthouse is 65-feet high and the light is 165-feet above sea level and can be seen seaward for 19 miles.
In November of 1983 the chariot wheels at the base of the lighthouse failed resulting in the lenses inability to turn. The Coast Guard planned on replacing the original Fresnel lens with a plastic auto-beacon rather then repair the original lens. The public around Umqua River Lighthouse protested enough to persuade the Coast Guard to restore the original lens rather then replace it.
Travel Directions: From Highway 101 just south of Winchester Bay turn west on Lighthouse Road and follow it to the Lighthouse. Parking is across the street from the lighthouse so from the car you can determine if warm clothing is needed.
Lighthouse Tours are from May 1 - October 10 daily, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Check the weather at Umpqua River LighthouseThe Motor Lifeboat’s only purpose is to save lives; therefore some people think they are the most important boats on the waters. The 36-foot TRS model lifeboat became the main rescue boat of the Coast Guard Life Boat Stations around the country. The boat was developed in 1937 initially with a gasoline engine and later models built of the same design were diesel powered. The boat weighs 20,000 pounds and is designed to be self righting (if capsized it would role back right side up), so the Coast Guard were trained to buckle themselves in and in the event of a capsize to just ride it out and it would come right side up again. It also was self-bailing with a 2000 pound bronze keel. She is planked with Cyprus over white oak frames and fastened with bronze screws.
This Picture is taken from the parking area accross the streed from the lighthouse.
The flash signature of the Umpqua River Lighthouse is 2-white and 1-red flash.
This Lighthouse is the sister to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, they were both built from the same plans.
As you enter the lighthouse through the door to the left, you first enter into the Keepers qurters.
Leaving the Keepers quarters, the keeper would walk through the brick passage way to the stairs.
The stairs are freestanding rather then built to the walls of the lighthouse.
This way the building could expand and contract with heat and cold and not affect the stairs.
This is looking up inside the first order Fresnel lens. You can see the flash signature of 2-white and 1-red flash.
The lens turns on small brass chariot wheels. Originally the lens was designed after the grandfather clock.
Every 4-hours the Keeper would have to pull this heavy counterweight up that hangs on a chain
as the weight of the counterweight would slowly lower it would turn the 2-ton lens which is above.
Now the counterweights have been replaced by this small electric motor the turns the lens.
On our way back down the stairs.
This is the building the Coast Guard use to stay in at Umpqua River Lighthouse.
It is now set up as a museum and where you check in to take a tour of the lighthouse
it is located just north of the lighthouse.
This is a Coast Guard Life Boat on display at the Umpqua River Lighthouse.
36-foot Motor Life Boat.
Traditionally the boats only navigational aid was a compass. She would require a 3-man crew with room for 20 survivors, and had a speed of 9-knots with a 200-mile radius.
(The Life Boat information was obtained from a sign hanging in the museum)I highly recommend taking a tour of the museum as well as the Lighthouse. The cost of a lighthouse tour is very minimal but that shouldn’t stop anyone from leaving a generous donation to help in its upkeep.