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Lightship Columbia WLV 604, OR  Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.Interior open or museum on site.Fee charged.   

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Lightship Columbia WLV 604 Lighthouse

When LV 50 was towed to the Columbia River Lightship Station on April 11, 1892, it became the first active lightship on the west coast. In 1979, eighty-six years after the establishment of the station, a large navigational buoy (LNB) replaced WLV 606, and the last lightship serving on the west coast was retired.

Tupelo servicing the Lightship Columbia in 1972
Photograph courtesy Clint Laurin
LV 50 was a wooden-hulled vessel constructed in San Francisco and housed two coal-fired boilers, which produced steam for a twelve-inch fog whistle. Three oil lamp lenses, used to alert vessels at night, topped the ship's two masts. The ship had no engine for propulsion, but was equipped with sails in case the anchor chain, which held the vessel at a position roughly five miles west of the Columbia River's mouth, broke.

During a severe storm on the evening of November 28,1899, the chain did break. The crew quickly set the sails and kept the vessel from grounding. After several attempts to tow the ship to safety failed the next day, the vessel was intentionally grounded at McKenzie Head near Cape Disappointment. Eighteen months later, after the ship was successfully hauled 700 yards overland, LV 50 was launched into Baker Bay in the Columbia River. The ship returned to station in August of 1901, after a trip to Portland for repairs.

In 1909 LV 88, a steel-hulled ship driven by a steam-powered propeller, replaced the wooden lightship. During her time on station, LV 88 received several enhancements. The ship was outfitted with a radio in 1920, and a radio beacon in 1925. Electric lights replaced her kerosene lamps in 1927, and the steam engine was upgraded with a diesel electric engine in the 1930s. In 1939, LV 88 swapped stations with LV 93, which was serving at Washington's Umatilla Station and was constructed with the same general plans as LV 88. LV 88 served at Umatilla Station until 1959, followed by one year of service as a relief lightship before she was retired. During World War II, LV 88 left her station, was outfitted with a 3" gun, and served as an examination vessel.

LV 93 served at the Columbia River station until 1951, when WAL 604 was assigned to the station. WAL 604 was originally staffed with a crew of sixteen. The crew was divided into three groups. Each group worked forty-two days on followed by twenty-one days off, and the groups were scheduled so that two groups were on the ship at all times.

Joseph McCarthy served two stints on the lightship: as a seaman from 1951 to 1953, and as captain from 1966 to 1967. During his first years of service, the men entertained themselves by reading books, fishing, and playing an awful lot of pinochle and a little cribbage. By the time McCarthy returned as captain, the lightship had been equipped with television, and the crew spent a great deal of time watching movies and TV.

Clint Laurin spent his final year in the Coast Guard aboard the cutter Tupelo and supplied the picture at right of the Tupelo servicing the Lightship Columbia on station on January 13, 1972. Fuel and groceries were transferred to the lightship.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum acquired WLV 604 from the Oregon Federal Surplus Program shortly after she was replaced by a LNB in 1979. The lightship is now a star attraction at the museum in Astoria, Oregon, located just twenty miles up the Columbia River from the lightship station. In 1993, the LNB was decommissioned and joined the lightship in the museum. The LNB was removed from the museum at some point between 2012 and 2014.

After the museum had raised funds for its restoration, Lightship Columbia was towed to a drydock in Portland in October 2021. The vessel's hull, decks, and superstructure were cleaned, sandblasted, repaired, and repainted. The lightship's engine and radio rooms were also restored and modified to welcome visitors for the first time. In June 2022, the lightship returned to the museum in Astoria where it rejoined the LNB, which had just recently returned to the museum after being restored by WCT Marine Construction of Astoria.

Lightship Specifications

  • Builder: Rice Brothers Corporation, East Boothbay, Maine.
  • Length: 128' 0"
  • Beam: 30'
  • Draft: 11'
  • Displacement: 617 Tons
  • Illumination Apparatus: 1,200-watt light and aircraft-type beacon (13-mile range)
  • Propulsion: 550 hp Atlas Imperial direct reversing diesel
  • Fog Signal: diaphone foghorn (5-mile range)

Station Assignments

  • 1951 - 1979: Columbia River (OR)


  1. Umbrella Guide to Oregon Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1994.
  2. Columbia River Maritime Museum website.

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