Stories of Oregon's Umpqua River sentinel
If you think of a lighthouse keeper as salt-sprayed, squinting,and talking like the sea captain on The Simpsons, GayLyn Bradley comes as a surprise. She hasthe soigné aura of a successful real-estate agent. But on theday I visit, her smart red suit is decorated with gold buttonsimprinted with lighthouses. “There is a mystique aboutlighthouses,” Bradley says. “Every one has its own story.”
They do. And among Oregon lighthouses, the Umpqua RiverLighthouse’s story is perhaps the most interesting, thanks in largepart to Bradley.
The Umpqua River Lighthouse rises above Winchester Bay on thesouthern Oregon coast. When you visit, you take a self-guided tourthrough the station’s museum. Here you see a photo of the firstlighthouse ― which was built in 1857 and flooded seven yearslater ― and the completion of the second, in 1894. “For 31years there was no lighthouse,” Bradley says, in the tone ofsomeone saying that for 31 years there was no food. “We had ninebig wrecks.”
Then you tour the lighthouse itself with docents. Umpqua wasn’tthe hardest posting on the Oregon coast, Bradley says, but thedangers were there. She tells the story of early lighthouse keeperMarinus Stream. “Every day he would write in his log book, takenote of the weather, unusual events. On one day you see a newentry, in different handwriting. Very soft, feminine. His wife.’Mr. Stream drowned at 1 p.m.’ He had gone out on a rescue.”