The Willapa Bay Lighthouse

For over 80 years, the Willapa Bay lighthouse stood guard over the entrance of Willapa Bay (originally called Shoalwater Bay). As one of the first 8 lighthouses on the West Coast, Willapa Bay was built in Cape Cod style with a squat tower and lantern resting on a simple cottage. Willapa Bay lighthouse was similar in style and design to the lighthouse on Smith Island which is located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Coincidentally, the lighthouses were both destroyed by the same force of nature; erosion.

On October 1st, 1858, the lighthouse began operation. Only a year later, keepers were forced to close the lighthouse as its remote location made it challenging to supply fuel for the light. It was later relit in 1861.

Throughout its history, erosion and shifting sands were an ongoing problem for the lighthouse and the surrounding community of North Cove. In 1868, keepers constructed a bulkhead and placed wooden planks around the lighthouse to prevent the sand from encroaching on it. Over the years, fences (1875), trees/brush fences (1881), and brush mats (1892) were all installed to prevent the ocean from destroying the lighthouse. Despite all of these measures, the Pacific Ocean continued to eat up the bluff where the lighthouse sat. Finally, during the winter of 1940, the west wall of the lighthouse slid into the ocean. The Coast Guard then dynamited the remaining side of the lighthouse to prevent curious visitors from getting hurt.

Over the the course of a few decades, the Coast Guard continued to build small structures at the point, only to have them destroyed by the waves. Today nothing remains of the lighthouse or its outbuildings.


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