Light shines as spit grows

Editor's note: Today continues a new monthly column that explores the history of Sequim, the Dungeness Valley and Clallam County. It is produced by Thomas E. Montgomery of John L. Scott-Sequim Real Estate in collaboration with Melissa A. Coughlin.

Do you know about the New Dungeness Lighthouse?

The New Dungeness Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in the Pacific Northwest. In 1850, prior to the first non-native settlers in the area, an act of Congress authorized the first of 16 lighthouses on the Pacific Coast, including one at New Dungeness. The site of the station was reserved in 1854.

Its purpose was to warn ships away from the long narrow spit that extended into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The spit is the result of sand and debris carried from the Olympics into the strait by the Dungeness River; the river meets the strait, and the debris is deposited on the strip of land known as Dungeness Spit.

Spit keeps growing

Originally, the New Dungeness Lighthouse was one-sixth of a mile from the tip of the spit; it now sits about one-half mile from the spit's tip, as the spit continues to grow. Almost five miles long, Dungeness Spit has the distinction of being the longest natural spit in the United States.

On Dec. 14, 1857, the light at the New Dungeness Lighthouse first was illuminated. This made it the first operational lighthouse in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and only the second (to Cape Disappointment) north of the Columbia River.

The original tower was 90 feet tall but it had to be lowered to 63 feet in 1927 after years of deterioration from weather (and some say aftershock from Canadian artillery practice).

Shining 152 years

The New Dungeness Lighthouse is unique in that it has been operational since its completion in 1857 and several of its original buildings are intact. It also is the only lighthouse in the Strait of Juan de Fuca-Puget Sound area to be open to visitors.

You can see the lighthouse from the mainland as you drive along the coastline on the Sequim Scenic Loop. The lighthouse is one of the most renowned and favorite landmarks in our area.

To access the Dungeness Spit and walking trail to the lighthouse, drive west from downtown Sequim on U.S. Highway 101, take Kitchen-Dick Road north to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Drive through the recreation area to the refuge parking lot (pay the small fee here) and hike five miles on the trail and beach to the lighthouse.

For the past 10 years, the lighthouse and area have been maintained and operated by the New Dungeness Light Station Association. For more information. see or contact the association at 683-6638 or write to P.O. Box 1283, Sequim, WA 98382.

Reach Tom Montgomery at 460-3796 or thomasm@

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