What Makes a Lighthouse So Appealing?

The Coquille Lighthouse sits on a point jutting out into the Coquille River opposite of Bandon, Oregon. Its replacement, an automated beacon, can be seen on the left across the river on the South Jetty. A glimpse of the Pacific Ocean appears on the right. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

I am sure that there are people who drive by lighthouses never noticing their existence. I am not one. There is something romantic about them that pulls me in. Maybe it is their historic role: saving mariners from crashing into rocky shoals and other shoreline hazards. Or maybe it is their isolation and the thought of a lighthouse keeper’s lonely life. Having a bit of hermit in me, I can easily envision such a life-style, assuming, of course, that I have my good buddy and a boatload of books along. Or possibly it’s their setting along dramatic ocean and lake shorelines. Rocky shorelines offer beauty as well as hazards.

The history of the Coquille River Lighthouse was closely tied to the logging industry. Early lumber barons wanted to get at the virgin forests located along the Coquille River. Access was relatively easy, assuming ships could cross the hazardous bar located at the mouth of the river next to Bandon. A jetty was built out into the ocean, which led to the creation of a deep channel. The lighthouse was built to guide ships along this channel. The 1890 funding proposal stated:

“A light of the fourth order with a fog-signal, at this point, would enable vessels bound into the river to hold on close to the bar during the night so that they would be in a position to cross at the next high water. The light would also serve as a coast light and would be of much service to vessels bound up and down the river.”

“A light of the fourth order,” refers to the type of the Fresnel lens used in the lighthouse. Fresnel lens are made up of multiple lens arranged in concentric circles around the light source. If you’ve been in a lighthouse, you will have likely seen one. They range in size from the first to the sixth order. Fourth order Fresnel lights could normally be seen for 15 miles out to sea and were commonly used to guide mariners into harbor mouths.

A Fresnel lens of the sixth order on display at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. This light could be seen for about five miles and would be used in harbors and along rivers.

Funding was approved by Congress and the lighthouse was functioning by the mid-1890s. It was operated up until 1939 when the Coast Guard took it over and determined that a less expensive, automated beacon placed on the end of the Bandon South Jetty would work as well. The abandoned lighthouse was neglected up until 1976 when it was taken over by the state of Oregon as part of Bullard’s Beach State Park. A joint effort by the state and the Army Corps of Engineers restored the lighthouse as an historic attraction. Various efforts since have maintained it, much to the enjoyment of thousands of visitors— including us.

Peggy and I stayed at the state park while we were visiting Bandon and used one of our mornings to go over and check out the Coquille Lighthouse, North Jetty and Bullard’s Beach. The following photos record our visit.

Peggy and I walked around the lighthouse to capture photos from various angles. I took this from the river’s edge. Low tide enabled me to shoot from below the tide line. The North Jetty stretches off to the left.

Peggy caught this close up.

And I took this picture looking over sea grass. Parts of Bandon can be seen across the river. We were on our way to walk out the North Jetty.

One of the first things that struck me about the jetty was the amount of driftwood piled up along it. This reflects the power of the ocean. It also warns that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the jetty in a storm.

Peggy posed for me in front of this large stump on top of the jetty, a remnant of logging up the river and along the coast.

I returned the favor posing for Peggy out toward the end of the jetty. A wave can be seen breaking over the end. And this is at low tide! We stayed far back. I would bet that people have been swept off of here while trying to photograph winter waves. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I appreciated the sea gulls adding a touch of sea life to my photo. One wave hits the end of the jetty while another rolls in. Watch out for the ninth!

A pair of seals with their big dark eyes swam along the side of the jetty and checked us out. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A view north from the jetty along Bullard’s Beach shows again how much driftwood (drift logs?) is brought in by winter storms.

Peggy took this shot looking up from Bullard’s Beach toward the lighthouse.

And this photo of a fort someone had built taking advantage of the driftwood. You can imagine the amount of fun kids would have building and playing in such a fort. Adults too. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I added a close up.

Walking along the beach we found a flock of Sanderlings. These small shorebirds are a delight to watch as they charge in unison along the beach following the tide as it rises and falls in search of delectable bugs. I liked the reflection provided by the receding water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Get too close and off they fly, whirling in unison as they head a few yards up the beach to continue their endless search for dinner.

I’ll close today with this final shot of the coastal land that backs up to Bullard’s Beach.

NEXT BLOGS:

Wednesday: While Bone waits to be found, we continue our backpack trip down the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail— finding our way through deep snow, crossing a raging river, and running from kamikaze mosquitoes.

Friday: Murals and other wild/weird art of Burning Man.

Monday: I travel north up Oregon’s coast and explore a cave filled with lions, sea lions that is.

 

Bandon, Oregon… An Attractive Coastal Town Where Trash Becomes Art

Trash gathered along the coastline near Bandon, Oregon is turned into art by the nonprofit organization, Washed Ashore. In this case, the artists have created a puffin.

 

Here’s something to think about:

A study carried out by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that the plastic we are dumping into the ocean will weigh more than the fish in a short 30 years. While most of this plastic circles the ocean as sludge following currents known as gyres, a significant amount washes up on our beaches creating hazards for wildlife and visual pollution for the rest of us. Even the most pristine locations fall victim to this onslaught.

When Peggy and I drove into the small town of Bandon on the coast of Oregon two weeks ago, we spotted several colorful sculptures of marine life that immediately caught out attention. On closer inspection, we found out they were made out of trash collected from the local beaches and turned into sculptures by a local organization named Washed Ashore.

The non-profit is the creation of Bandon artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi who decided to do something about the pollution that was cluttering local beaches in 2010 and begin turning the trash into art.

“First you just want people to stop and look at the art,” Angela noted. “And then you want to have them stop and think about the problem.”

It certainly worked with us.

Today, hundreds of volunteers join with Angela and her staff in creating sculptures that travel the country and even the world creating awareness about our use of the oceans as a garbage dump. Last year, a number of Washed Ashore’s sea creatures even made it to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC.

This delightful fish is another example of Washed Ashore’s artistic endeavors. Note the old phone on the fish’s nose right above the child’s sand shovel.

Here is the puffin featured at the beginning of the post…

And this is a view of tide pool life created from trash.

A closeup of the feathers on the puffin’s chest.

A head on view of the fish with it’s scary teeth and trashy mouth.

Peggy, who always makes sure that her trash is properly disposed of and recycled, can stick her hand in the fish’s mouth without any fear of retribution.

But here’s what it might be like if she dumped her trash in the ocean! (She really is a good sport when serving as a model. “Look like it is biting you,” I had told her.)

Most towns along the Oregon coast spread out along Highway 101 like strip malls and feature the same motels, gas stations and fast food joints you can expect to find anywhere else in the US. Peggy and I have discovered, however, that most of these small communities also had the foresight to save their historic districts. These in turn have become attractions for tourists, a source of important jobs and dollars.

Bandon welcomes visitors and provides activities that range from walking on its beautiful beaches, to shopping and eating in town, to playing golf on some of Oregon’s finest golf courses.

The other side of this sign over Bandon’s main street welcomes you to Old Town. This side looks out on busy Highway 101 from the historic district.

Such is the case with Bandon. Peggy and I wandered around Old Town and did our bit for the local economy. We bought books in a fun little bookstore, nibbled our way through a chocolate store, and quaffed a couple of pints of Guinness at an Irish pub. We even checked out a store that is dedicated to producing and selling candy made with cranberries. It turns out that Bandon grows over 90% of Oregon’s cranberry crop and 5% of the nation’s!

I would describe the Old Town area as fun and funky. The nature of the original town has been preserved without pretensions.

As you might imagine, the town’s access to the ocean guarantees an abundance of fresh seafood. I liked the sense of humor reflected by the fish.

An attractive boardwalk featuring several works of art fronts the Coquille River and forms the northern border to Old Town. We concluded our visit to Bandon by strolling along the walkway, checking out the marina, and admiring the art.

A world globe we found on Brandon’s Boardwalk conveniently located where we were.

A regal seahorse checked us out…

A carved turtle grinned at us…

And led me to focus in on its smile.

A friendly harbor seal…

Gave us a look that seemed to say, “Feed me a fish, please.”

And a crab did what crabs do so well— look crabby.

My favorite, however, was this octopus. I took several shots.

Back lit by the sun, he looked a little scary, like something out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I decided to use my last photo to introduce my next post on Bandon (next Monday). Peggy and I will cross the Coquille River to check out this lighthouse and the ocean beach next to it. We are looking at the lighthouse from Bandon’s Boardwalk.

NEXT POSTS:

 

Wednesday: I begin a three-part series that focuses on a backpack trip near Lake Tahoe where we found Bone.

Friday: I will continue my photo essays on the art of Burning Man.

Monday: I’ll wrap up the Bandon, Oregon series with a trip to the Coquille Lighthouse and the surrounding area.

 

 

Gallery

Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint… The Oregon Coast Series

This gallery contains 33 photos.

  Peggy and I have driven through the town of Bandon several times without stopping on our journeys up and down the Oregon Coast. We decided to correct that oversight this past week. I had googled the small town along … Continue reading