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For more information about the Coquille Lighthouse visit the Friends of the Lighthouse site.
Grant and Kathy Webb are a volunteer couple working with Oregon State Parks. They host visitors to the Coquille Lighthouse and give tours in the turret of the lighthouse. Their next assignment will be at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.
From the State Park Brochure:
Attracted by gold, fishing and lumber, the first settlers arrived at the Coquille Valley in 1853. As late as 1886 there wasn’t so much as a wagon road between the Coquille River and Coos Bay, only about 30 miles apart. Transportation and communication between the communities depended upon waterways.
The geographic location of Bandon at the mouth of the Coquille River made it the hub of all river transportation. Inbound merchandise and passengers were transferred from their ocean-going vessels to riverboats for delivery to upstream destinations. Valley farm products and outbound travelers were transferred at Bandon for their journeys to other ports. Dozens of boats would be in the harbor at a time, loading and unloading freight and lumber. But shoals at the mouth of the river made the bar entrance unpredictable. If the entrance to the Coquille River was to be of any real commercial use, jetties were essential. In 1887 the south jetty was built. Dredging created a depth of 10-12 feet at high tide, but shoaling continued to be a problem. By 1888, officials knew that a lighthouse and a jetty on the north side of the river were essential.
The jetty was constructed of rock trained in from the south side of the river. Parts of the train ended up becoming part of the jetty. These wheels and axels are still visible from the lighthouse location.
Can you see the old train wheels? Click on the images to make them larger. Also, notice the Coast Guard helicopter practicing along the Coquille River bar. Below is a close up of a diver leaping from the rescue helicopter.
In 1891, Congress appropriated $50,000 for the construction of the Coquille River Light Station, the last to be built on the Oregon coast. A local engineer interceded, however, and designated some of those funds for repair to the Point Gregory Lighthouse at Cape Arago. The Coquille River Lighthouse was built four years later for only $17,600 . . . the smallest lighthouse on the Oregon coast. The lighthouse reserve included 11 acres, including Rackleff Rock, the island on which the lighthouse was built. It was connected to the mainland by a footbridge until 1905 when the north jetty was completed and the channel filled in to connect the island to the mainland. The light station went into service on February 29, 1896 with Lightkeeper James Barker in charge. He and his assistant, and their families, shared a duplex a tenth of a mile north of the lighthouse. The head keeper earned $800 per year; his assistant $650. If equipment was lost due to negligence, it was docked from their pay. Families had chores, too, but were not compensated for their labors. Women rowed their children across the river to go to school. During a storm at night, family members often went on 4-hour shifts in the tower to make sure the light did not blow out. Lighthouse inspectors were notorious for surprise inspections, and women were required to keep their quarters as clean and polished as the lighthouse.
The Coquille River Lighthouse presents a relatively simple exterior due to the small scale of the structure, and resembles characteristics of the High Victorian Italianate style. On average, it is 10-15 feet from the base of the structure to the water below. The tower measures 47 feet from its base. The lightroom was equipped with a Fourth-Order Fresnel Lens, illuminated by a Funck Heap lamp, and was visible 12 miles at sea on a clear night. The orders refer to the size of the lens; the first order is the largest. The signal beam was on for 28 seconds, off 2 seconds, signifying that it was a “Harbor Light.” Shutters eclipsed became obsolete. The Coast Guard extinguished the light at the Coquille River Lighthouse and replaced it with an unwatched automated beacon at the end of the south jetty. It was the end of an era: the light was removed from the tower and the lighthouse abandoned. When Bullards Beach State Park was created in 1964, it assumed responsibility for the lighthouse. By 1979, vandalism and weather damage had been repaired and the lighthouse restored. Today, a solar-powered light in the tower of the lighthouse re-creates the grandeur of yesterday for Bandon and area residents. Volunteer interpreters offer tours to the tower of the lighthouse during summer months, which remains closed the rest of the year. Special accommodations can be made for groups by calling the park office. Gift shop open 10-4 daily during the summer. All proceeds go to the lighthouse restoration fund. During a storm at night, family members often went on 4-hour shifts in the tower to make sure the light did not blow out. the light for the 2-second occlusion, and were operated by a clock mechanism. The fog horn was a DaBoll Trumpet. Its signature was a blast of 5 seconds, followed by a silent interval of 25.