Digest>Archives> January 1999

And, now there are three . . . The Demise of the Smith Island Light

By Sharlene Nelson

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Washington state's pristine Smith Island ...

Washington state's first five lighthouses were lit during 1856 to 1858; Cape Disappointment in 1856, New Dungeness and Cape Flattery in 1857, and Willapa Bay and Smith Island in 1858.

The Willapa Bay Lighthouse fell into the Pacific Ocean in 1940, when its sandy point was washed away. The Smith Island Lighthouse, on Smith Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, recently met the same fate.

Originally, the Smith Island Lighthouse stood about 200 feet away from the island's western edge. The bluff began to erode, and when the bluff reached the front door in the 1950's, the lighthouse was abandoned. During the 1980's until the spring of 1998, the last part of the broken lighthouse clung precariously to the bluff and could be seen by passing pleasure boaters, ourselves included.

Recently, we were sailing from the San Juan Islands and crossing the strait near Smith Island. As usual, we looked for the lighthouse. "Can't see it," I told my husband Ted.

"Surely it's there," he responded. He looked. Then we both scanned the island's edge using the binoculars. No lighthouse.

After 100 years, the tenacious old Smith Island Lighthouse was gone.

This story appeared in the January 1999 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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