Umpqua River Lighthouse – Dean Elk Refuge, Oregon.

The Umpqua River Lighthouse is unique on the Oregon Coast. It has a red and white light that shines through a brilliant and beautiful, First Order, Fresnel lens.

The lighthouse stands 65 feet tall on a one hundred foot cliff to give it the 165 foot elevation required by the Lighthouse service at the time of it’s construction in 1884. The elevation requirement allowed the light to be seen 20 miles out to sea. The red ball atop this and all other lighthouses is called a bearing ball and was used by seafaring navigators, who could always see at least 2 lighthouses (barring fog), to triangulate their position and determine their location. The ball and it’s support also served as a controlled vent for the oil fueled lamp originally used for the light. In the picture below you can see the slots of the vent under the ball. This prevented the lamp from smoking and clouding the lens.

The Umpqua River Light is a handsome structure and tours are given hourly to view it. The tower is a double walled brick structure. This tower is actually the second one built at the Umpqua River, the first was built at the mouth of the river, on sand, years earlier and fell down after several years of erosion under the foundation.

The tour guide provided some history of the light and took us up into the light room to see the marvelous Fresnel Lens.

The Fresnel Lens, which concentrates the light of the relatively small lamp (now electric) was invented in France and made by one of several glass companies in France. The lens rotates on wheels, originally driven by a weighted clockworks – now by an electric motor, such that the light blinks out to sea every 5 seconds with a white-white-red sequence. The lens is a first order lens, the largest made, and is a work of art to see.

Not far from the lighthouse the Dean Elk Refuge protects one of Oregon’s herds of Roosevelt Elk. Roosevelt Elk are the largest sub-species of elk and exist mainly on the Oregon and California coasts.

All we saw on this day were bulls with there magnificent antlers still in velvet. This time of the year the bulls live in peaceful groups until the Fall Rut(breeding season) when they will start to collect harems of cow elk and aggressively fight each other to protect them.


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