Cape D and North Head Lighthouses

Of the two lighthouses at Cape Disappointment State Park, North Head is more accessible, only requiring an easy walk through coastal woods from a parking area about 1,000 feet away. Once there, views are stunning and the lighthouse itself is a remarkable historical artifact.<BR><I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</i>

Cape Disappointment and North Head lighthouses, favorite visitor stops during summer and winter, are two of 750 guarding the shores of the U.S.

The older Cape Disappointment Lighthouse guides mariners into the mouth of the Columbia, while the younger beacon at North Head welcomes sailors approaching from the north.

After many difficulties, including loss of all construction materials in a shipwreck at the mouth of the Columbia, construction of the 53-foot masonry lighthouse at the cape was finally completed in 1856. For the first time in history, a strong beam stretched out across the Columbia Bar from the heights of Cape D.

North Head Lighthouse was erected just two years before the turn of the previous century. Congress authorized construction of the light because of a marked increase in the number of shipwrecks along the Peninsula.

North Head stands in testimony to the cape's "interesting" weather: Winter winds there have been clocked at 160 mph.

Additionally, some believe the lighthouse to be haunted by a woman who threw herself from the cliff.

Tours are conducted daily at North Head during summer months and on weekends in the off-season. Cost is $2.50 per adult. Children younger than seven may not climb up into the light.

Both lighthouses still help local fishing boats and ocean-going ships navigate the dangerous waters here at the western edge of the continent.

Directions to NORTH HEAD LIGHTHOUSE: Drive west from the traffic light in downtown Ilwaco following the signs for Cape Disappointment State Park. After a winding two miles of road, turn right at the lighthouse sign to the trailhead parking area.

Directions to CAPE D LIGHTHOUSE: Continue one mile past the North Head turnoff, following the signs to the state park and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. A one and one-half mile round-trip trail leads to the lighthouse from the center itself or its lower parking lot. This trail is physically challenging in places, particularly in wet weather, but the scenic views are worth the exertion. The interior of the Cape D light is rarely open to visitors; subscribers should watch for notices in the Chinook Observer newspaper.

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