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Travel - The Two Lighthouses of South Washington State

Updated on June 15, 2013

Two Lighthouses of South Washington State Pacific Ocean

If you’ve never traveled to the two lighthouses of Southern Washington State, this really is a must-see travel destination.  The two lighthouses are called Cape Disappointment and North Head, which are only two miles apart.  This area has been known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific”. 

Few residents of Washington know this it seems, but one of the beaches in between the two lighthouses, is named Waikiki Beach, Washington.

Cape Disappoinment Lighthouse Washington

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse | Source

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment is an unusual name for a lighthouse.  One can’t help but wonder how it came to be called that.  Lighthousefriends states, “Named "Kah'eese" by the local Indians, it received its current name from Captain John Meares. On July 6, 1788, Meares sought shelter from a turbulent sea but to no avail. He named the cape, "Cape Disappointment."

Cape Disappointment lighthouse was first lit on October 15, 1856. It stands 53 feet tall at 220 feet above sea. Its black horizontal stripe was added later, to separate it visually from North Head Lighthouse.  It is near Ilwaco, Washington, a quaint fishing village and also near FortCanby.

Cape Disappointment was built to help mariners navigate to and from the Columbia River.  This area is one of the most treacherous waterways in the world, with a documented 234 ships either burned, sank or stranded.

There is a wonderful hiking trail up the cove and to Cape Disappointment lighthouse that is an easy hike, yet provides some real exercise.  The inside of the lighthouse is not open to the public.  From the panoramic view one can see for miles the stunning seascape of the cliffs and jetties of Washington’s south coastal shores.  

From this vantage point, one can also see the FortLewisInterpretiveCenter, which is a visitor destination not to be missed.  This is a wonderful educational site for adults and children alike.  The whole area of the Cape DisappointmentState Park area is full of sights and sounds to see.

North Head Lighthouse

Just 2 miles north, stands North Head lighthouse, that was originally built and lit for the first time on May 16, 1898.

According to Lighthousefriends, “After Cape Disappointment Lightstation was established in 1856 to mark the entrance to the Columbia River, mariners approaching the river from the north complained they could not see the light until they had nearly reached the river. Their cry for an additional lighthouse was supported by the many shipwrecks, which occurred along the Long BeachPeninsula, just north of the cape.”

North Head Lighthouse is one of the windiest places in the United States. On January 29, 1921, winds were measured at 125 mph before the instrument blew away.

North Head lighthouse is open to the public and has interesting folklore to learn of while there. Guests are also able to rent some of the single dwelling units located just inland of the lighthouse for vacationing. There are also campgrounds nearby with yurts to rent, as well as standard RV and tenting campsites.

At both lighthouses, it’s not unusual to see various sea creatures playing in the Pacific Ocean or near the shore. Otters, whales, and other rich, marine life may be seen. One could easily spend a week or more exploring these lighthouses and the surrounding areas nearby, offering both modern conveniences, the beauty of nature, and the rich historical culture this area provides.

North Head Lighthouse Washington

North Head Lighthouse Washington
North Head Lighthouse Washington | Source


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    • GPSWorldTraveler profile image

      GPSWorldTraveler 6 years ago from Washington State, USA

      BRRRRRRR is all I can say to your adventurous camping trip and yes do write about it as it would make a very interesting article to read!

    • joyfuldesigns profile image

      Valerie Garner 6 years ago from Washington State

      LOL, the visual picture I get from your Lhasa Apso puppy in gale force winds! Frankly, I can't imagine hiking the trails in major winds. We were lucky to hit a gorgeous day. Although we did camp on a beach in Moclips in early March, 70+ mph winds, 34 degrees, in a tent. It collapsed, we got soaked, it snowed, worst camping trip ever....hmm maybe that would be a good hub.

    • GPSWorldTraveler profile image

      GPSWorldTraveler 6 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Hello joyfuldesign, enjoyed your article. Last year we traveled along the coast line and think we may have stopped near here... one of the beaches have black sand as I remember. Unfortunately it was 'gale-force' winds which we thoroughly enjoyed, however, it made our Lhasa Apso have a very interesting hair day :) and us reluctant to trek the trails. Thanks for reminding me of that special part of the country.