Exploring Coastal Guardians at State Parks

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Fort Casey - main
August 5, 2016
August 7 is 
National Lighthouse Day! Why not plan a trip to see one of your state parks lighthouses to mark the day! Some parks are even holding celebrations to honor their beautiful beacons!

There is something magical about lighthouses

Romantic icons of the meeting of land and sea, these steadfast, sturdy coastal  guardians captivate the collective imagination.
Washington’s lighthouses serve as gateways to our history and are prominent fixtures in coastal photography. Washington state parks are connected with eight of these lighthouses, beginning up north in the San Juan islands and continuing to the southwestern part of the state. We’ve profiled each of them below, with photos and a glimpse into their history.

Lime Kiln Point State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Limekiln
Little but lovely, Lime Kiln’s lighthouse is a photographer’s delight — especially when the sun sets!
If you’re looking to see the famed orca whales, put Lime Kiln Point State Park, on the west side of San Juan Island, on the bucket list! The park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. Minke whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions and otters cruise the shoreline, feasting from the nutrient-rich kelp beds. The lighthouse was built in 1919. Small, stout and classical in style, this little lighthouse  still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in Haro Strait. It can even be a beacon for your relationship! The lighthouse is a popular spot for weddings. Interpretive programs and lighthouse tours are available mid-May through mid-September.

The Friends of Lime Kiln Society are holding their National Lighthouse Day celebration August 11, at Lime Kiln. Join them from 6 to 9 p.m. for live, local music and lighthouse tours. Enjoy a picnic dinner as you enjoy the music and watch the spectacular sunset over Haro Strait.

Fort Casey Historical State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Fort Casey
More than just a pretty lighthouse! Explore Washington’s military history and more when you visit Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Fort Casey Historical State Park.
The center fixture of Fort Casey Historical  State Park on Whidbey Island is the Admiralty Head Lighthouse (pictured in the feature photo), which was built in 1903. In 2012, a new, historically accurate lantern house was added. Inside, interpretive panels recount a brief cultural history about the Native American nations from the area, the first pioneer settlers and the construction of Fort Casey. The best part? Climb the steep, narrow staircase to the top of the lighthouse to find sweeping views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Celebrate National Lighthouse Day early! Head out to Admiralty Head Lighthouse Aug. 6, for an afternoon of family fun. This  free event is  from 1 to 4 p.m.  and includes crafts for kids and music by the Shifty Sailors. Food vendors Tailgate BBQ and Sweet Mamma’s Cotton Candy will be on hand as well!

Fort Worden Historical State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Fort Worden
Point Wilson Lighthouse is a great spot to enjoy a day of history and beach exploration.
Located in Port Townsend, Fort Worden State Park is one of the most frequented parks in the state. Within the park, Point Wilson Lighthouse, built in 1914, marks the western entrance to Admiralty Inlet from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is an important landmark for vessels traveling to and from Puget Sound. Enjoy a day on the beach and exploring the batteries at this turn-of-the-century Army fort, and snap a few shots of the picturesque lighthouse. Then explore it from the inside with a guided tour! Interpreters are on hand from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays at the lighthouse from May to September.

Cape Disappointment State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Cape Disappointment
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is a stately reminder of Washington’s maritime history.
Few spots along Washington’s Pacific coast offer you as commanding a view of thundering ocean waves as Cape Disappointment State Park. Perched upon the cliffs, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known as “the graveyard of the Pacific.” This is the oldest functioning lighthouse on the west coast. After the Cape Disappointment Light Station was built in 1856, mariners approaching the river from the north complained they could not see the light until they had nearly reached the river. As a result, many shipwrecks occurred along the Long Beach Peninsula, just north of the cape. The call for a second lighthouse was heard, and the North Head Lighthouse was erected in the late 1800s. Through 2016, the North Head Lighthouse is under construction. During this time, you won’t be able to get inside the lighthouse, but  you can still view this magnificent structure from the outside. 

Westport Light State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Westport Light
Explore two great parks and one great lighthouse! Westport Lighthouse is between Westport Light and Westhaven state parks.
Located on the Pacific Ocean at Westport, the park is named for the historic Westport Lighthouse (also called Grays Harbor Lighthouse). Constructed in 1898, the lighthouse was built as a navigational aide for Point Chehalis at the south entrance to Grays Harbor. The lighthouse itself is not on State Park property but is operated by the Westport Maritime Museum and is open to the public, except in December and January. The nearby day-use state park is an excellent destination for beach exploring. A concrete boardwalk traverses the primary dune, connecting the park with Westhaven State Park, 1.3 miles away.

Fort Flagler Historical State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Fort Flagler
Marrowstone Point’s lighthouse is unusual but still picturesque.
Fort Flagler Historical State Park sits on northern tip of Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County. Along with the heavy batteries of Fort Worden and Fort Casey, the park area once served as a guarded nautical entrance to Puget Sound. Not your standard lighthouse, Marrowstone Point Lighthouse features a small light station to aid ships in the area. Though automated in 1962, the station still remains fairly intact and serves as a scientific research facility.

Patos Island Marine State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Patos Island
The lighthouse at Patos Island is the northernmost one in Washington. Stop by if you are boating in the nearby waters!
Patos Island is located five miles northwest of Orcas Island and is only accessible by boat. It’s perfect for an overnight kayak trip as you can stay in one of the island campsites for the night. The lighthouse on the park dates back to 1918 and was occupied and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard staff and their families until the late 1960s. Civilian employees and then Washington State Parks staff lived and operated the site until it was finally automated in the 1970s.

Burrows Island Marine State Park

Exploring Coastal Guardians - Burrows Island
Burrows Island Light Station is just outside the park boundary. Photo by Josua & Amber
Bonus lighthouse: Burrows Island lies south and west of the town of Anacortes. In 1905, prompted by the loss of several vessels to nearby Dennis Shoal and Lawson Reef, the Lighthouse Board selected Burrows Island as the site for a new light station. The oldest wooden light station in Washington state was automated in 1972, and a helicopter landing pad now stands where the keeper’s bungalow was located. Technically, the light station is not located within the state park boundary, but Washington State Parks owns about 70 percent of the island. You can get to the lighthouse from the park. The park has no developed facilities and is accessible only by boat. Some local charter boat operators can take you to the island. According to Waggoner’s Cruising Guide, if you go by boat, anchor in Alice Bight on the northeast shore or, if possible, beach your boat. The rest of the island is rimmed mostly in steep cliffs.

Which is your favorite state parks lighthouse?
Tell us about it and share your stories and photos here.