Share this travel adventure!

Umpqua Lighthouse Park

One of Oregon's Most Popular Parks
Today’s ships have so many navigational aids we may take lighthouses for granted. Over the centuries, though, they’ve saved countless lives — and the dollar investments of many ship owners.

In fact, lighthouses were so important that on August 7, 1789, the United States Congress approved an Act that established and supported lighthouse, beacons, buoys and public piers. Two hundred years later, on August 7, 1989, the US Congress passed a second lighthouse resolution, making the day National Lighthouse Day.

While traveling, David and I often see lighthouses. This year, our favorite was the one at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, which is situated right in the middle of the amazing Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

History of the Umpqua Lighthouse

Umpqua Lighthouse in Oregon

Umpqua Lighthouse in Oregon

There are a number of fascinating stories in the history of the Umpqua Lighthouse. To start with, the current building is the second one. What happened to the first one? Well, it only survived for seven years before falling over in 1864!

To be fair though, the collapse wasn’t really the fault of the government engineers that designed and built it. The beautiful Cape Cod-style building tower rose an impressive 65½ feet, while its lantern was a third-order Fresnel lens. At first, all went well.

Then, in February 1861, after four months and 72 inches of rain, the Umpqua River rose nearly 45 feet! Needless to say, the builders hadn’t anticipated how that much water would weaken the lighthouse’s foundation.

Miraculously, it held on for a few more years until an October gale in 1863 did what the water had failed to, and nearly toppled it over.

Workers kept the lights going but pleaded with the higher-ups to abandon it. On receiving approval, workers quickly removed the expensive Fresnel lens. Next, they started removing the iron lantern…

That was when, as they say, all hell broke lose!

Scurrying for their lives, the workers fled as the lighthouse collapsed.

Of course, the need for a lighthouse didn’t change. It took nearly thirty years, though, until 1891, for bids on building a new one to be opened and accepted. The lighthouse, however seemed jinxed! One thing after another happened, and the first contractor failed to finish the lighthouse, so a second contract was awarded.

Lighthouse #2 went into service on New Year’s Eve in 1894. Its two white flashes, followed by one red, can still be seen for 19 miles seaward. The two-ton lens has a 10 foot diameter, and its prisms were hand cut in Paris, France, in 1890. Mariners were once again safe on this part of the Oregon coast.

However, there wasn’t enough money left of the original allocations to pay the second contractor. It took until January, 1898, for payments to be sorted out between the first and second contractor and the Treasury Department to close the case.

Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

The second Umpqua Lighthouse sat on a beautiful location in Winchester Bay on the Oregon coast. So in 1935, the State of Oregon approached the Bureau of Lighthouses to secure land around it for a state park. The Bureau turned over 10 acres under a revocable license in exchange for $1,000, and Umpqua Lighthouse State Park was established.

In 1939 the lighthouse was taken over by the United States Coast Guard. They constructed additional barracks and a boathouse. In March, 1976, the Coast Guard deeded the barracks and boathouse to the Douglas County Parks Department. The following year, in 1977, the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the entire Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is operated and maintained by Douglas County. Umpqua Lighthouse is one of the few left in the country with an operational first-order Fresnel lens. Existing buildings have been renovated and converted to a museum that’s open to the public.

But the park is just open for daytime usage. It also provides campsites along with yurts and cabins for those who want a different overnight experience. There are also hot showers and modern toilets.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

While the lighthouse and museum are certainly a big draw to this state park, many enthusiasts also come for the dunes. Indeed, Umpqua Lighthouse Park is smack in the middle of towering sand dunes that reach heights of 500 feet or more!

The dunes are protected by the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which does allow access for off-road enthusiasts and hikers. If you enjoy motorsports like we do, whether it’s with a sand rail, motorcycle, 4×4, or quad, you’ll want to put the park on your summer destination list.

Of course, there are also many water sports to enjoy here too. Whether you like sailing, canoeing, water-skiing, swimming, scuba diving (you may find treasures from sunken ships!) or fishing, there’s a spot for you.

And me? Even though we didn’t have a quad along, I got to enjoy the dunes on foot. There are lots of trails through both the dunes and the Douglas fir and Sitka spruce trees in the recreation area. My preference, though, will always be digging my toes into the sand of the dunes.

Visit Umpqua Lighthouse State Park & Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

On the Web:
Umpqua State Park visitor information

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

National Lighthouse Day

Umpqua Lighthouse was our favorite lighthouse for National Lighthouse Day this year. What was yours? Let us know in the comments below.

More Things to See in Oregon

Take an Adventure Road Trip Through Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon has an adventure for every adrenaline junkie. Hike mountains to waterfalls, try kite surfing, or downhill ski year-round!

Road Trip on the Oregon Coast: Things to See & Do

There’s nothing like coastal holidays! Check out these amazing things to see and do an Oregon road trip from a 37 foot Paul Bunyan statue to hiking dunes.

Top Fall Festival for Food Lovers—Feast Portland

Feast Portland offers a gastronomic pilgrimage of epic proportion. Festival held every September in Portland, Oregon, featuring local & International chefs.

Take This Oregon Road Trip: 365 Mile Loop From Klamath Falls

Take this 365 mile loop from Klamath Falls on your Oregon road trip. See Crater Lake, Umpqua National Forest and waterfalls, vineyards, and more!

Hike the Pacific Crest Trail for Spectacular Views

Check out this infographic of The Pacific Crest Trail. Running for 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) down the U.S. West Coast, it provides hikers and equestrians with some of North America’s most spectacular scenery and hiking opportunities. Thru hikes take about 5 months to get from the Canadian border to Mexico.

Best Things to See & Do if You Only Have 1 Day in Portland

If you only have one day to spend in Portland, Oregon, here’s a list of the best things to see and do. The walking itinerary starts at the AMTRAK station.

Places You Must See & Hike in Oregon: Painted Hills

Some say the Painted Hills of Oregon are one of the seven wonders of Oregon. For us, they were one of the highlights of our 10 day road trip to see the giant redwoods on California's East coast. So what makes them distinctive? You could say that Oregon's Painted Hills...

Ocean and Sand Dunes to Giant Redwoods — Road Trip

The Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 101, is the one of the most well known road trips in America--and with reason! Day 5: Oregon's Pacific Coast Scenic Byway to California's Redwood Highway No matter what name it goes by, Highway 101 is an ever-changing drive down the...

Painted Hills to Lava Rock to the Oregon Coast Highway — Road Trip

Some days on a road trip are so spectacular they stand out forever. This was one of those days. Day 4: Condon, Oregon, to Florence, Oregon The John Day Highway from Condon, to our turn onto the Oregon 207 Highway into Mitchell, was as scenic as Day 3 on the trip. Lots...

Taking the Scenic Route with the Coast Starlight Train Down the California Coast

There’s something about the comforting sway of a bunkbed, whether it’s on a train on land, or a boat at sea, that makes it easy to sleep. At least for me, anyway! But get up I did, for  the third day of my Amtrak trip--riding the Coast Starlight Train down the...

About the Photo

The header photo above is of the Umpqua Lighthouse, on Winchester Bay, on the Oregon coast. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor about staying in this area.

Pin Me

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Share this travel adventure!