Cape Disappointment – what an unfortunate name for such a beautiful place! On July 6, 1788 explorer John Meares named Cape Disappointment because of his disappointment about not finding the Columbia River. Ironically Cape Disappointment is on the northern side of the mouth of the Columbia River.
We visited Cape Disappointment when we stayed at Fort Stevens in Oregon. Cape Disappointment is actually in Washington, but Fort Stevens was the closest we would be to it so we crossed over into Washington before actually “moving” there with our house.
Don’t worry, I was not driving while taking this picture. We were actually stopped for one lane traffic due to road work on the bridge.
This park has 2 lighthouses! The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was built in 1856 to watch over the entrance to the Columbia River.
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse came into view too far south to warn ships approaching from the north so a 2nd lighthouse (North Head Lighthouse) was built in 1898. This is the only location on the west coast with 2 lighthouses within 2 miles of each other.
North Head Lighthouse is under construction while Washington State Parks restore it to its original 1898 look.
We learned a lot about lighthouses while visiting the Oregon coast and later the Washington coast. Each lighthouse has its own unique signature or light pattern so ship captains can verify their location. The North Head lighthouse’s signature is 2 white flashes of light every 30 seconds. Yaquina Head Lighthouse that we toured a few weeks earlier in Oregon had a pattern of 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 14 seconds off. I thought it was very interesting how each lighthouse is unique and how ship captains use these signatures for navigation. I’m sure this was especially useful before the GPS was invented.
The Visitor Center had a lot of interesting information about how lighthouses work and also a lot of cool Coast Guard exhibits.
While we walked between the lighthouse and the visitor center we found a lovely little cove nestled between the cliffs. It was so warm there being sheltered from the wind so we spent a long time just enjoying the beach here.
Cute little driftwood forts were built on the beach too!
Mr. Meares probably had no idea that the “disappointment” name would last for over 2 centuries, and I wonder if he ever found out that he really was so close to the Columbia River. I would definitely not call this place disappointing. 🙂