A celebration of Washington's beautiful shore sentinels

The Peninsula boasts of two beatiful sentinels, incuding the North Head lighthouse. FILE photo

WASHINGTON - Everyone loves lighthouses! This summer, they're in the limelight as the Washington Lightkeepers Association celebrates the sesquicentennial of the Evergreen State's lighthouses with a two week festival of tours, boat trips, family activities, concerts, special programs, exhibits, a photo contest, a road race and more. Get a free souvenir lighthouse map at any of the 13 participating lighthouses and go sentinel searching. See all 13 lighthouses and earn a certificate proclaiming "I've Seen the Lights!"

Lighthouses are our state's oldest buildings and proudest monuments to civility. The first, built in 1856 overlooking the Columbia River Bar at Cape Disappointment, still operates and will celebrate its 150th birthday this year.

Eventually 26 lighthouses went into service along Washington waters. Their opulent lenses sent rain-sodden rays into the darkness to encourage commerce and draw a diverse population to the Northwest. The crews that built them suffered adversity and setbacks; the solicitous lightkeepers who came to trim the lampwicks and hammer the fogbells were among the state's earliest pioneers, many living in remote places with few comforts.

Today, only 21 lighthouses remain standing. Five were demolished or fell into the sea, and the three lightships that once anchored at Swiftsure Banks, Umatilla Reef, and the Columbia River Bar have been decommissioned. The era of the liquid highway seems a romantic chapter from the past in many parts of the world, but here in Washington commercial tankers, tugs, and cargo vessels, as well as the U.S. Navy, ferries, cruise ships, and pleasure boaters, still depend on lighthouses every day.

Come celebrate our sentinels this summer! Visit just a few, or see all of the lights. Thirteen lighthouses have scheduled special activities during "The Great Lighthouse Hunt" from Aug. 5 to 20 and have free souvenir maps available. They are: Point Robinson, Browns Point, Alki, West Point, Mukilteo, Admiralty Head, Lime Kiln, Point No Point, Point Wilson, New Dungeness, Grays Harbor, North Head and Cape Disappointment. Special cruises will take visitors to see remote lighthouses in the San Juan Islands.

To print your own map online and learn more about the events planned, visit www.walightkeepers.com or e-mail info@walightkeepers.com

Photo Contest - 5x7 or larger prints of Washington lighthouses by amateur photographers of any age. Deadline for submissions is Aug. 15. Winner will be announced in late August. Cash prizes awarded in October. Check www.walightkeepers.com for details.

Souvenir Map - Pick up a color souvenir map of Washington lighthouses from any participating lighthouse and use it to go "Lighthouse Hunting." The backside of the map has blocks for special rubber stamps from each lighthouse visited. Complete the map and earn a special "I've Seen the Lights" certificate from WLA.

Scavenger Hunt - Pick up "The Great Lighthouse Scavenger Hunt" fliers at any accessible lighthouse in Washington during August. Use the flier, along with the souvenir map, to discover curious facts and fun things about our lighthouses. Great family activity!

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