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The Northwest Coast's lighthouses are amazing historical structures that have survived years of the harshest conditions, drenching rains and hurricane force winds. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, seen from Cannon Beach and Seaside, is one of the coast's most interesting of these iconic structures. Located to the north about two miles out to sea on a lone rock off the shores of Tillamook Head, the lighthouse was an amazing, dangerous and even deadly feat of construction. First surveyed in 1879, coastal residents thought it was crazy to attempt to build a lighthouse in this location, but a site on Tillamook Head was deemed not acceptable due to its height and frequent fog. Construction workers from outside of the area were brought in because no local skilled laborers were willing to attempt the dangerous undertaking. One of the first surveyors to reach the rock slipped off the rock and drowned. Using a tether attached to the rock, construction workers were ferried from ships via a breeches buoy that would often plunge the men into the icy cold waters, as the ship bobbed in the seas. Despite the challenges, construction continued and the lighthouse was finally finished in January of 1881 after almost a year and a half of construction. The lighthouse certainly earned its nickname, "Terrible Tilly." Storms often brought flying rocks and debris through the lantern room and roof. Four keepers stayed on the rock at all times, originally, working for three months before getting two weeks off the rock. That was changed to 42 days on and 21 days off due to the harsh conditions and the mentally challenging isolation. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse shone for 77 years but, because of its location and harsh conditions, had become the most expensive US lighthouse to maintain and operate. It was finally decommissioned in 1957. One of the best locations for viewing the lighthouse is the viewpoint at Ecola State Park.
MORE COASTAL LIGHTHOUSES: Several more historic Pacific Northwest lighthouses can be seen in day trips from Cannon Beach and Seaside. About an hour's drive north to Ilwaco, Washington rewards visitors with two historic lighthouses, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and the North Head Lighthouse, both located in Cape Disappointment State Park. At the entrance to the Columbia River, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was the first lighthouse constructed on the Northwest coast, dating from 1856. South of Cannon Beach about one hour is the Cape Meares Lighthouse at Cape Meares State Park, west of Tillamook. A short walk from the parking lot leads you to an eye-to-eye view with the lighthouse's large lens. Between April and October, the lighthouse is open to visitors who may also climb into the lantern and inspect the huge lens up close.