February 2009: A visit to the Grays Harbor (Westport) Lighthouse
Retreat The Grays Harbor Lighthouse - also called the Westport Lighthouse - was next to the beach when it was built in 1898. But, the jetty system built for nearby Grays Harbor changed the way that sand and sediment was deposited. This has caused the coast to steadily grow. Today, the lighthouse is 3000ft from the ocean.
In the Forest At 107ft, this lighthouse is the tallest on the Washington Coast. While the trees are slowly catching up with it, they still have room to grow before the lighthouse is hidden by the forest.
Steps The lighthouse was opened to the public in the 1990s. Visitors pay $4 to climb the stairs, and hear some stories about the lighthouse history.
Fresnel Lens Most lighthouses feature fresnel lenses. This lens design is relatively light and effecient for applications where large lenses are required. Essentially, this lens is a series of curved prism - not a solid piece of glass - that aim the light in a focused path.
The Light The light was eventually turned off in 1992. Now, the windows in the lighthouse are mostly covered with drapes to protect the lens. This also prevents accidental focusing of the sun onto the nearby forest... which has sparked a few fires through the years!
Eye to the Sea The lens was originally suspended in a basin of liquid mercury. While this provided a nearly frictionless way to turn the lens, it was also toxic. The mercury had to be drained and cleaned from time to time...
Up 135 stairs lead up to a sweeping view.
Where is it? The Grays Harbor Lighthouse (also called the Westport Lighthouse) is in Westport, WA.
Before you go... There's a $5 fee to climb the stairs to the top.