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Seattle, WA to Astoria, OR

Including Cape Disappointment (1998 and 2012)

Also be sure to see the Travel/Geography Blog

Pacific Northwest Coastline

Cape Disappointment

At the Mouth of the Columbia River

Our first full day began in a southerly direction. We woke early at a generic hotel outside Seatac Airport, seriously jet-lagged, and arrived in Olympia while most sane people slept-in. It was Saturday. Eventually the Farmers Market opened and we wandered the booths. We climbed the hill to the Capitol building and poked around the grounds for awhile, and gradually wandered back into town for more shopping.

Heading due west on Rt. 12 we reached the coastal highway, Rt. 101, and continued south along the coast. The mouth of the Columbia River marked the coastal boundary between Washington and Oregon.

On the Washington side we took a detour to Cape Disappointment and Ft. Canby State Park (which has since been renamed Cape Disappointment State Park) near the town of Ilwaco. We learned more about the Lewis & Clark expedition and admired cliffs and bluffs such as the one pictured above.


Washington State Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

The force of the Columbia River flowing into the Pacific Ocean creates a treacherous situation for ships sailing past its mouth. A lighthouse came early to this section of the coast and stands as the oldest functioning lighthouse on the western coast of the United States, first lit in 1856. It stands 53 feet high but has an adjusted focal plane of 220 feet above sea level because of the cliff high above Cape Disappointment. Originally the lighthouse had a first order Fresnel lens, which is a very large one as measured by the Fresnel scale. This was later replaced with a fourth order lens when the original lens was moved to another site. The fourth order lens continues to serve as an active navigational aid and the original lens can now be found at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, part of the Cape Disappointment State Park.


First Order Fresnel Lens

Cape Disappointment Lens

We returned in 2012. Our visit included a tour of the nearby Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center where the original Cape Disappointment Lighthouse first order fresnel lens is on display.


Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

That same 2012 return trip provided a great view of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse from the outdoor deck of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.


Columbia River

Columbia River Meets Pacific Ocean

This is the treacherous mouth of the Columbia River as viewed from Cape Disappointment. The U. S. Coast Guard considers this such a dangerous stretch of coastline that it assumed operation of the lighthouse in 1939 and continues to shine the light through today.

We crossed into Oregon on a four-mile span above the Columbia River, and I entered my 49th State [I finally hit the final state, North Dakota, on August 14, 2002].

Readers who have an interest in lighthouses might also want to check my Lighthouse Index page.

Fish Brewery coaster

See my Fish Brewing page