Newport, Ore.: A lighthouse worth the climb

Road Journals Blog—Like most people, I don’t like the agony of waiting in lines at the bank or grocery store. But when I travel it’s easier to slow down and enjoy standing and waiting to see something interesting.

That’s why, despite a slow-moving line of visitors, I waited to climb the 114 metal steps inside the Yaquina Head lighthouse, a pristine white column that rises 93 feet from ground to spire. Every time one person came down the stairs, one could go up.


The view from the top | Scott Catron/Flickr

The lighthouse was built in 1871, a true feat considering materials arrived by boat in the nearby rocky alcove where frothy white ocean perpetually churns. There, the howling wind gusts even on clear, sunny days like the one on which I visited, which made the well-maintained white tower look even more impressive from the outside.

But it wasn’t until I started ascending the spiral staircase inside that I really began to appreciate what the lighthouse represented: salvation for thousands of ships that could see the building’s flashes for as far as 19 miles out to sea.


Some of the 114 steps | Lucy Burningham

At the top of the stairs a volunteer dressed in period clothing told us about Yaquina Head’s first-order Fresnel lens, which was invented by a Frenchman in the early 1800s. (The current version is automated.)

Again I found myself in a small line, because only one person at a time could climb the final set of stairs. When my turn came I climbed to the top and peered into the rainbow-filled lens, which filtered light from the endless blue ocean, a view that was well worth the wait.

Lucy Burningham wrote about Newport, Ore., for the July/August 2011 issue of VIA.

This blog post was first published in August 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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