Tillamook Rock Lighthouse near Cannon Beach Oregon | OK Which Way


Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

Operating from 1881 to 1957, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse sits over one mile out at sea on a basalt rock that was flattened on top. She’s 62 feet tall and known as Terrible Tilly. She is currently privately owned and not open to the public.


Know Before You Go

Location: One mile out at sea between Cannon Beach and Seaside, Oregon
Viewpoint: To see the lighthouse from shore, the best viewpoint is located within Ecola State Park. You can hike coming from the south at Indian Beach or from the north at Tillamook Head Trailhead in Seaside.
Fees: Parking at Ecola State Park has a day use fee. There is no fee when parking at the trailhead in Seaside.
Lighthouse Tours: none


Lighthouse History

The idea was to build a lighthouse on land 1,000 feet above sea level on Tillamook Head to guide ships towards the Columbia River. However, the location was deemed unsuitable and Tillamook Rock was selected instead. Tillamook Rock, though, wasn’t ideal either and locals often tried to warn the builders of the dangers.


It was no easy feat, but after 500+ days of preparing the rock and building the stone lighthouse on January 21, 1881 Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was finally lit. A month later the fog siren blared for the first time.


Five keepers were typically assigned to Tillamook Rock at any one time. However, life on the rock was so unpleasant, both physically and mentally, that the first head keeper didn’t last even four months. Assignment times were originally set at three months on duty with two weeks off, but with the harsh conditions they were switched to 42 days on the rock and 21 days off.


Even at 150 feet above sea level, Terrible Tilly was often battered with heavy rain and wind. Pacific Northwest storms would send rock and debris crashing through roofs and rooms, which would then flood. The weather on a lone rock at sea sounds awful, but my breaking point would have been listening to the fog siren blast every 90 seconds.


Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Ecola State Park Oregon | OK Which Way
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse out at sea


The Light

The lantern room is 16 foot square and held the first-order Fresnel lens which provided a white flash every five seconds.


Tillamook Rock Lighthouse seen from Indian Beach Oregon | OK Which Way


For 77 years Terribly Tilly guided seaman. She still stands, but was decommissioned in 1957 and replaced with a whistle buoy.


As if her story isn’t haunting enough, after she was decommissioned Terrible Tilly for awhile was used as a storage place for ashes of the deceased – which still remain there today.



“Farewell, Tillamook Rock Light Station. An era has ended. With this final entry, and not without sentiment, I return thee to the elements.”   Keeper Oswald Allik, September 1, 1957

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Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, known as Terrible Tilly, located near Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach Oregon | OK Which Way


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