Friday, January 13, 2012

The Willamette River Light Station, a lost river lighthouse

The Willamette River Light Station at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Photo taken around 1905

On a foggy day in the late nineteenth century the farmers on Sauvie Island would hear the loud, dull tolling of a fog bell every 10 seconds. On rainy, dusky evenings riverboats plying up the Willamette river heading for Astoria, or Cascade Locks would be guided by the blinking red beam coming from a structure sitting on a sand bar at what is now called Kelly Point. This was the long lost Willamette Light Station that you see in the photograph.

Many is the time I have been to Kelly Point. Having worked for the U.S.D.A. Federal Grain Inspection Service for over thirty years I have spent many duty rotations working at the T5 export grain elevator next door to Kelly Point. Often times I would spend a pleasant lunch hour there beneath the oaks and cottonwoods gazing out on the placid meeting place of rivers. When inspecting cargo holds of ships anchored in the Columbia, we would usually board a launch at T6, the automobile and container dock on the Columbia river side of Kelly Point. But in all those years no one ever mentioned the long lost Willamette River Light Station, because it was long lost.

I spent some time researching. Now I know most of the facts about the Willamette River Light Station. If I don't fit them into the book I am writing on the history of the Portland waterfront I will write an article on the subject and see if some Portland periodical will publish it. If no one wants it, then I will happily serve up all the details, plus more images, right here on my little blog. 

Note: There is a very short Wikipedia article on this lighthouse, but it leaves out some interesting facts, and the facts it has aren't  entirely correct. I will add my two cents to Wikipedia when time permits.