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Beneath an Oregon Coast Lighthouse: Heceta Head's Curiosities, Tales Near Florence

Published 6/03/24 at 4:55 p.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Florence, Oregon) – It's often referred to as “the most photographed lighthouse in the world.” While it's definitely hyperbole to some degree, Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence may well have that statistic on its side. Near the very center of the Oregon coast, it's the focal point of varied finds and adventures, with a huge array of beachy wonders that includes a funky cave. (Photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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While no one really knows what is the most frequently photographed lighthouse on this planet, there’s little doubt this one is especially photogenic. It’s often viewed from the overlooks a few miles south, around MP 179 and 178, where you can also peek down at a rugged wilderness of secret beaches inaccessible to humans, where hordes of sea lions have formed a colony in this area.

The park that allows access to the lighthouse is called Heceta Head State Scenic Viewpoint, formerly Devil's Elbow State Park until about the late ‘90s. Cutting through the state park is Cape Creek, and the southern side of that is still called Devil’s Elbow.

Interestingly, this was the site of a bad horror film made in this area in the ‘80s, which among other nearby locations featured this beach. Starring Patrick Duffy, “Cry for the Strangers” actually called this beach “Devil’s Beach,” with the premise being it was the site of an ancient native curse.

The beach itself is rather smallish and a lot like a cove, where Cape Creek murmurs its way through the sands with calming beauty. From some angles, if you block the headland from view, the two sea stacks jutting out from the headland cause the place to look a bit like Oceanside, over 100 miles to the north.

An interesting note about the headland and those sea stacks is the first rock structure and the headland were almost connected. People had been drowning there periodically over the decades this place allowed tourists, falling into the ocean while trying to jump from the first rock to the second one. The connecting point here was never a safe one – simply another smaller chunk of rock that was sort of in between the two.

That was really kind of the problem: it wasn't a real connection. In the '70s, seven people died here. So by 1981, Oregon coast officials took it upon themselves to blast the rock away, leaving no piece between to tempt people. Lost Parts of Oregon Coast: When They Blasted Rocks at Heceta Head

Bounce around the tideline, close to the edge of the headland, and given the right tidal conditions a fascinating cave becomes apparent. It’s not very big, but it's intriguing. There is a bit of a Goonies vibe here. Also see Heceta Head Caves, Different Sides

There's actually more than one cave, though some are closer to mere indendations.

However, if the tide is anywhere near it, you don’t want to venture in as ocean waves frequently wash into the sea cave. Usually, this only becomes even vaguely accessible during summer's high sand levels, which push the tides out and keep them farther away. This does, however, shorten the height of the cave. See Geology of Cliffs Heceta Head

This famed Oregon coast lighthouse is no longer available for tours to the top: the stairway simply couldn't take the regular traffic anymore. However, the BnB next door has a gift shop and sometimes the bottom of the lighthouse is open to take a peek inside.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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