WESTPORT, Wash. — John Shaw, director of the Westport Historical Society, has hiked the 135 steps of this lighthouse many times.
"This is the Grays Harbor Light, and this is one of the five main chain lighthouses along the west coast. This is Washington's tallest lighthouse,” he said on his way up the spiral cast iron stairway that has led keepers and visitors to the top since 1898.
“It is a step into the past, you are basically seeing what people did in the late 1800s on a daily basis to keep the light lit,” Shaw said.
The lighthouse still houses the original Fresnel lens, built in Paris, France in 1895.
Up at the top of this 107 foot tall lighthouse, you never know what the 360 degree view will reveal — we spotted gray whales in the ocean during our visit.
The beach has slowly built up over the decades. When the light was built it stood 400 feet from the shore, now it's 3000 feet away. The addition of jetties in the water and paths on the shore have allowed dunes to build up and become forests. And the massive glass lens doesn't shine out over the waves anymore. But the Grays Harbor light is still an aid to navigation thanks to a smaller electric light the Coast Guard has mounted outside the original lantern house.
The Grays Harbor light still shows ships at sea where they are. And it does the same thing for anyone willing to climb all those stairs to the top.
"It's a very popular tourist activity, for people that visit the beach, you can get up to the lighthouse and you can get your bearings,” Shaw said.
He added that even when the light was first built and had a keeper housed on-site, curious tourists would stop by and visit the light — much to the consternation of the keeper, who was trying to do an important job and didn’t have time to entertain visitors.
"This light has been bringing people to Grays Harbor for a hundred and twenty five years,” Shaw said.
The Grays Harbor Lighthouse is open for tours Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in fall, winter, and spring, and open daily in the summer. Climbers must be at least 40” tall and 5 years old. Admission is $5, Coast Guard (active and retired) free with with ID. Hours can vary, call 360-268-6214 for information. 1020 W. Ocean Ave. Westport, WA 98595