Oregon August 30, 2019
You Can’t Visit The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse In Oregon, But Its Tumultous History Is Fascinating
Oregon’s lighthouses are fascinating places to visit and photograph. In fact, people come from all over the world to see some of them! There’s a lighthouse just off the coast that you can’t visit, but you’ll want to hear the stories of its tragic past.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is actually 45 miles north of the town of Tillamook. It's located just off the coast, almost directly west of Bird Point in Ecola State Park.
This lighthouse has a tragic, tumultuous history that's earned it the nickname "Terrible Tilly." You can't visit Tilly, but its stories are the stuff of legends.
Construction on Tilly started in the spring of 1880, and it was operational in January, 1881, but before it was even built, two tragic accidents occurred here.
Several surveys were conducted prior to the lighthouse's construction. During the third survey, John Trewavas, an experienced mason, was overcome by a large wave and swept out to sea. His body was never recovered.
After Mr. Trewavas' death, no crews were willing to work on the rock, but construction finally resumed. Workers suffered under perilous conditions the entire time, and on one occasion, a storm swept away all of the work crew's tools, food, and water. They were lucky to survive, but were stranded on the rock for two weeks before help arrived.
By January, 1881, the lighthouse was almost completed, but one more tragedy struck before its light was lit.
The sea was socked in with thick fog and high winds as the
Lupatia made its way down the coast. The ship's captain discovered that they were too close to shore and tried to turn the ship out to sea, but to no avail. All 16 members of the crew were killed.
The 64-foot-tall lighthouse was lit for the first time on January 21, 1881. Throughout the years, it was pummeled by violent storms that caused damage and risked the lives of the keepers.
In 1934, a storm with 109-mile-per-hour winds damaged the lighthouse and destroyed its Fresnel lens. Repairs were costly, and finally in 1957, the lighthouse was shuttered for good.
Terrible Tilly had taken its toll on workers and staff for decades, and she was eventually sold to a private company.
Tilly briefly served as the home to the Eternity at Sea Columbarium from 1980 until its license was revoked by the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board in 1999.
Tilly remains inaccessible to the public. The rock is still privately owned, and it's also been been added to the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
During seabird nesting season, no one is allowed to land on the island, but the only way that the owners can access it during the rest of the year is by helicopter.
If you'd like to see Terrible Tilly, visit Ecola State Park, where you can get a glimpse of her right off the coast. Bring your binoculars for a closer look and to catch a glimpse of various sea birds and even sea lions.
Are you ready to explore more of Oregon’s lighthouses? You can
take this lighthouse walk that offers incredible views, and stay overnight at the B&B that serves an incredible seven-course breakfast at this lighthouse.