Heceta Lighthouse
Heceta Lighthouse

Photos by Renée Buchanan

Fresnel Lens
Beloved Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most-visited lighthouses in the United States. It is a majestic structure, with white-washed walls and red roof, dramatically perched on the headland. This combination makes for an extremely photogenic lighthouse, with a not-to-be-missed view from the cliff just north of Sea Lion Caves.

One thing that makes this lighthouse extra special is the first-order Fresnel lens, which was manufactured in Birmingham, England. Comprised of 640, two-inch-thick prisms, the lens is arranged in eight bull’s-eye panels that concentrate the light of a single flame so it can be seen 21 miles out to sea. The original lens is still in working order, with only small sections having to be replaced since it first began operating in 1894.

Each lighthouse as a specific light-flash pattern, so sailors know where they are by watching the flash. Heceta Head’s flash is exclusively white (some have combinations of red) and can be seen every 10 seconds.

On a clear night, the majesty of the Fresnel lens is overwhelming.

This five-minute video gives a brief history of the lighthouse, its keepers and residents, repairs, and a tour inside with a glimpse of the amazing Fresnel lens.