And yes, lighthouses plural is correct. Because of it’s proximity to the treacherous Columbia River Bar this location has two lighthouses within two miles of each other.
The Cape Disappointment lighthouse was built in 1856. It is 53 feet tall and sits high atop a hill on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River.
Because of it’s location I could only get pictures from far away (the photo above was taken from the Visitor Center, about a half mile away) or from very close to it. The building you see next to it is for US Coast Guard personnel to keep a visual watch on the sometimes treacherous Columbia River Bar just offshore.
The problem with this lighthouse was that ships approaching from the north, places like Seattle and Alaska, couldn’t see it. A decision was made to construct a second lighthouse, called the North Head lighthouse, just two miles north of this one. It was first illuminated in 1898. It is 65 feet tall and sits at 190 feet above sea level. The lighthouses emit different pulses of light so ships can tell them apart.
The North Head lighthouse structure is now under the purview of the Washington State Park Service (both lighthouses are located within Cape Disappointment State Park). The actual lighthouse operations (both are still in use) are conducted by the Coast Guard, which has a base adjacent to the Park.