Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
Published: 12/22/2010  Updated: 08/15/2019
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse can be seen just offshore from Cannon Beach and Seaside.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse can be seen just offshore from Cannon Beach and Seaside. 

The Tillamook Rock lighthouse is an enduring symbol of the region's rich maritime history, guiding ships along this dangerous stretch of the Pacific coast since the mid 1800s.

The Northwest Coast's lighthouses are amazing historical structures that have survived years of the harshest conditions, drenching rains and hurricane force winds. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, seen from Cannon Beach and Seaside, is one of the coast's most interesting of these iconic structures.

Located to the north about two miles out to sea on a lone rock off the shores of Tillamook Head, the lighthouse was an amazing, dangerous and even deadly feat of construction. First surveyed in 1879, coastal residents thought it was crazy to attempt to build a lighthouse in this location, but a site on Tillamook Head was deemed not acceptable due to its height and frequent fog.

Construction workers from outside of the area were brought in because no local skilled laborers were willing to attempt the dangerous undertaking. One of the first surveyors to reach the rock slipped off the rock and drowned. Using a tether attached to the rock, construction workers were ferried from ships via a breeches buoy that would often plunge the men into the icy cold waters, as the ship bobbed in the seas.

Despite the challenges, construction continued and the lighthouse was finally finished in January of 1881 after almost a year and a half of construction. The lighthouse certainly earned its nickname, "Terrible Tilly." Storms often brought flying rocks and debris through the lantern room and roof. Four keepers stayed on the rock at all times, originally, working for three months before getting two weeks off the rock. That was changed to 42 days on and 21 days off due to the harsh conditions and the mentally challenging isolation.

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse shone for 77 years but, because of its location and harsh conditions, had become the most expensive US lighthouse to maintain and operate. It was finally decommissioned in 1957. One of the best locations for viewing the lighthouse is the viewpoint at Ecola State Park.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse