HISTORY OF HECETA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
"the light is high on a cliff, looking out over the ocean. yet when compared to the glowing stars high in the sky, the light is low on the ground...it's only a matter of perspective whether you are high or low...one person's low, could be another person's high" ― bodhinku, high low
pronounced “ha–see–ta” by most, “heck–ah– ta” by others, yet everyone agrees heceta head is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. it's named after the basque explorer under spanish commission, bruno de heceta, who explored the pacific northwest in the 1770s. now 127 years old, the heceta head lighthouse and light keeper’s home are circa 1894. both are listed on the u.s. national register of historic places.
the lighthouse is a working lighthouse. from a height of 261 feet above the ocean (205 foot cliff and 56ft tall lighthouse), it's a “first order” fresnel lens, and casts it’s beams some 21 miles out to sea. it's the brightest light on the 0regon coast. it's also said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the united states.
there are few more dramatic vistas along the oregon coast than the heceta head lighthouse, one that has steered ships from danger since 1894. the view is especially eye-popping from the pullout along u.s. 101 southward, just before the sea lion caves, about 13 miles south of yachats, oregon. from here, high above the surf, you can take in the scene, which includes the sights and sounds of frolicking sea lions on the rocks below, and a bird’s-eye view of cape cove and devils elbow, with heceta head framed perfectly beyond.
for an up-close encounter with this striking landmark, turn right onto cape creek road, which winds down beneath the soaring, aqueduct-like 1932 highway bridge to a large parking lot beside a windswept beach (day parking is $5), popular for tide pooling and offering sheltered picnic tables. here a well-maintained gravel path leads a mile slightly uphill, past a few outbuildings and out to the lighthouse itself; paths from the light keeper’s home lead both to the beach and to the lighthouse, it’s all part of a 7-mile trail network through heceta head lighthouse state scenic viewpoint that affords abundant opportunities to view sea lions and migrating gray whales (which come especially close to shore in may), as well as such local birdlife as cormorants, eagles and common murres.
the lighthouse was staffed until 1963, when an automated beacon was installed—it’s visible some 21 miles offshore. today, although you can’t ascend the stairs to the lens, you can explore the base of the lighthouse as well as its ground floor when rangers are on hand (staffing and weather permitting, the hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily in summer and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. friday through monday in winter).
the heceta lighthouse b&b, in the light keeper’s home, is perched on a cliff with a magnificent view of the pacific ocean and the beach below. you can book an overnight stay in the red-roofed former assistant lighthouse keeper’s residence, which dates to 1893 and is now operated as heceta lighthouse b&b. it contains six antiques-filled rooms, some with ocean views, and rates include breakfast and an afternoon wine social. whether on clear nights beneath a canopy of twinkling stars or stormy winter evenings when you can hear the waves crash against the rocks below, staying here is a magical experience.
"high-low. light-dark. dream-reality. faith-fact. it's the balance we find between opposites in our life that creates the path on which we must walk" ― bodhinku, opposites