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S. Oregon Coast: Curious Start / Stop History of Umpqua Lighthouse at Coos Bay Event

Published 04/14/23 at 6:52 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

S. Oregon Coast: Curious Start / Stop History of Umpqua Lighthouse at Coos Bay Event

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(Coos Bay, Oregon) – It was the first lighthouse built on the Oregon coast, until it wasn't. The Umpqua Lighthouse up near Reedsport has a wonky history that creates a unique place for itself on this shoreline. It wasn't the only Oregon coast lighthouse that had to be rebuilt, but it's the only one that seriously fell apart in the middle of being dismantled, endangering crews working on it. Even stranger, it's the only lighthouse on these shores that ended up in the dichotomous postion of being the first and last to be constructed. (Photo Oregon State Parks)

A ways down the road, the Coos History Museum in Coos Bay lights up its First Tuesday Talk in May with a presentation about the curious history of Reedsport's sentinel. Richard Whitwer, local lighthouse expert and CHM research team member is presenting “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Umpqua Lighthouse” on May 2, going from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. An appropriate title, considering that's what this lighthouse literally did.

This program will be hosted in-person and is open to the public with an admission price of $7 for non-members and is free for CHM members. Those who wish to save time and be admitted directly to the program can pre-register and pay in advance by contacting the museum. Reservations can be made by phone at 541-756-6320 or register in person at the museum’s front desk. Walk-ins are welcome for all Tuesday Talk programs.

For more information about the Society and the Coos History Museum, visit or email

Reedsport, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

In 1851, when Congress first set aside money for building a lighthouse near present day Reedsport, no part of the Oregon coast had a lighthouse as yet. This one seemed a bit cursed, however. As construction readied a couple years later, it was delayed when the ship bringing its supplies wrecked on the south Washington coast.

It didn't help they built it right in the middle of Indian fishing grounds. Tribal members took to stealing tools and other objects at night to delay the work further, and thus started a bit of a scuffle between the original locals and the newcomers. Then, a long, harsh winter delayed work even more, with the light finally built in the fall of 1857.

Just a few short years later, those running things realized they had built it in a precarious spot, as storms started to undermine the structure from below. At one point actually tilting, it fell apart in '63, dismantled, and no lighthouse existed there for about three decades.

Finally, in the 1890s, the second lighthouse built – again after numerous setbacks and delays.

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Photo courtesy FlickR / Bjorn

Photo courtesy FlickR / Cody Logan

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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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