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North Head: Lighting the Way on the Washington Coast
Published: 02/28/2012
The North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco, Washington.
The North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco, Washington.
Gary Hayes

The North Head Lighthouse has stood watch on the Washington Coast for more than 100 years.

Lighted in 1898, the 65-foot tower of the North Head Lighthouse stands on a 130-foot cliff at one of the windiest places in the country. Winds of over 120 miles per hour were recorded at this spot before the instrument was blown away. The North Head Lighthouse was built because the nearby Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was not visible to ships approaching from the north, which led to many shipwrecks at this place known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific." The North Head Lighthouse is clearly visible to ships coming from the north at 17 miles away.

A 69-step climb to the top of the lighthouse rewards the viewer with a spectacular vista of the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Along with the lighthouse, there is a small workroom at the base, two two-story residences, a barn and outbuildings. The lighthouse is part of Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Washington and is open to visitors for tours and the keepers' residences are available for overnight stays.

While at the park, visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center where the light's first-order lens is on display. For tour times and information on staying in the keepers' residences, call the park office at (360) 642-3078. - By Stella Bennett

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