Smiling in Westport

My work takes me to the Pacific Northwest in the US every year to visit with several clients I care for up there.  A couple of years ago I decided to take a side trip out to the western tip of Grays Harbor in Washington state.  My primary interest was to see the Grays Harbor Lighthouse which is located at the southwest tip of Grays Harbor in a little town called Westport.  The place has really grown on me, so I decided take another trip to Westport last month.

Prior to this year, I have only been in the area in mid to late October.  As one of my key client’s job situation has changed, I decided to make this trip happen in mid to late September this year.  (The Pacific Northwest can be extremely rainy and wet by later October.)  As it turned out, I ended up meeting one of my Seattle area clients over in Westport as he was looking for a little getaway himself.

Westport Campground wp
This is my campsite space in an RV park in Westport (American Sunset RV Park), just a couple of minutes from the water.  As you can see, I was not exactly roughing it.

So what makes Westport special?  This is a small commercial fishing town with a couple of canning plants and a wonderful large, protected harbor.  Additionally, Westport features miles of sandy beaches.  Besides beach life, the town offers guided fishing tours, whale watching at certain times and even hosts a surfing contest in September, which I watched for a while.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my super telephoto out, so I don’t have any really great surf shots.  Also, Westport is only about two hours from the Olympic National Park with its numerous mountains and incredible beaches.

Marina 3 wp
This is a shot of the marina in Westport.

Westport is located about 22 miles west of Aberdeen on the south side of Grays Harbor.  Aberdeen is an old logging town which has gone through some really rough times as the logging industry has advanced so much technologically over the past 30 to 40 years.  It is a city in flux, slowly changing from the older economy to a more recreation and tourist based economy.

Of course, besides the ocean and its associated multi-faceted recreation opportunities, one of the main attractions in Westport is the old Grays Harbor Lighthouse.  The lighthouse was begun in 1897 by architect Carl W Leick.  At 107 feet, it is the tallest lighthouse in Washington, and the third tallest on the US west coast.  The base of the lighthouse sits on a 12 foot thick slab of sandstone.  The tower is constructed of brick covered in concrete.

Grays Harbor Light 2wp
This is shot is from the beach looking east toward the lighthouse.  When the light was first constructed, none of these trees were around it on the coast.  If you look closely, you can see the Fresnel clamshell lens in the lantern room.

Interestingly, when the lighthouse was first constructed and lit in 1898, it was only 400 feet (about 120 meters) from the water.  Today with all of the accretion partially due to the man-made jetty (about two miles in length) at the mouth of Grays Harbor, the light is now about 3000 feet from the sea.

Gray's Harbor Lighthouse wp
This is the Grays Harbor Lighthouse as it looks today.  If you look closely at my photo (you may have to click on it and blow it up), you can see that original clamshell Fresnel lens in the lantern room.  The modern light is located outside the lantern room on the left side of the tower as we are viewing it.

The Grays Harbor light is one of the few lighthouses in the US which still holds its original Fresnel lens.  This lens in particular is quite unique in that it is a rare clamshell design, and it is a third order lens.  The clamshell design allowed the light to carry its unique red and white alternating beacon.  Although the Fresnel lens was de-activated in 1992, it is still lit on special occasions.  The original lens’ white beacon was visible for 23 miles out to sea, while the current “modern lens” carries a beam visible for 19 miles and 17 miles on the red flash.

The Fresnel lens is about 6 feet in diameter and originally floated on a bed of mercury as its bearing allowing it to rotate nearly effortlessly.  The Fresnel lens still occupies most of the lantern room at the top of the tower.  Unfortunately, I arrived at the tower just as the last tour of the day was wrapping up.  But, I did get to spend some great time chatting with one of the tour guides.

However, as you will see in a minute, there is more to Westport than its lighthouse.  The town is actually quite small with a few shops and restaurants along the main road next to the marina.

Westport wp
This photograph is looking northward along the main street next to the marina.  The tower at the end of the road proves an awesome 360 view of the entire west end of Grays Harbor.  And if you want some good seafood, check out Bennett’s.

Fishing and tourism are the town’s lifeblood.  In the later spring and early summer, one can book whale watching tours to see the grey whales and humpback’s as they make their way north from their breeding areas in Hawaii.  This time of year, you will see a lot of the locals fishing for salmon.

Here are a few shots of the marina from the last couple of years.  As you can see, commercial fishing is really why this town exists.

Westport Harbor 1 wp
I took this last October just as a huge rainstorm was starting to clear.
Marina 2 wp
And here is a picture of the marina from this year in September after a morning shower.
Proof that mermaids do exist and that fishermen need inspiration. 


Marina 5 wp
Looking eastward over the marina after the morning rains, and yes the sky was really that blue.  Just a gorgeous day.

The Lady Washington was moored at the marina in Westport while I was visiting as she was waiting out the storms.  I was quite lucky as I was able to take a tour of the ship.  The Lady Washington is a replica of a two-masted sloop-of-war that is used for tours, movies and other recreational events.

Lady Washington wp
Here is the Lady Washington at her moorage.

The original ship of the same name was used in the Revolutionary War and was named for Martha Washington, our first President’s wife.  It harassed the British fleet, and after the war it became the first US ship to sail to Japan, and then on to the Philippines.  For a short time the ship was captained by Robert Gray for whom Grays Harbor is named.

Lady WA 2
A more complete view of the Lady Washington while moored in the Westport Marina.
Lady WA rigging
I thought you might enjoy a close-up of the rigging on the rear mast.  It is so incredibly intricate, and the crew told me that it takes them a few sailing seasons to learn what everything does.


Lady WA 3
A view from the stern looking toward the bow (front).  What really amazed me the most about the ship was how small this is for an ocean-going vessel.  I cannot imagine sailing to Japan in this thing.  Even though the ship is a replica it is quite historically accurate other than some kitchen equipment and some modern navigational items.

Of course, no trip to Westport is complete with the ocean and beach.  As I mentioned previously, the Westport area beach is rather unique in Washington as it is mostly flat and sandy with sea grasses rather than so rocky and jammed with driftwood and logs as are many other beaches in the state.

I hope you enjoy some of my photos from a few long walks I made up and down the beach.

Westport Seagrass
This shot is from a walking path just up from the sand.   What a beautiful September morning.
Sand Dollar wp
As a kid who grew up in west Texas, I have a fascination with sea shells and the whole ocean thing in general.  I discovered that Westport beaches have an abundance of really beautiful, and intact, sand dollars.
Grass and Sand wp
I really liked the contrast of the textures and shapes here between the soft wave blown sand and the vegetation.
Driftwood barnacles BW wp
I found this old washed up log with barnacles in it.  This shot just seemed to lend itself to black and white.
Sea pines
Another view looking out to the Pacific Ocean.
I took this two years ago in October 2016 near just before sunset.
Driftwood Shape wp
How did this piece of tree end up like this?
September Waves Westport wp
And this is why Westport hosts a surfing contest in September.
Westport surfing
With a little cropping and my 18mm – 200mm Nikkor Zoom lens, I was able to get this relatively decent shot at the surf contest one afternoon.  That water is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) 
Westport Beach Sunset 2 wp
Well, the sun has set on my Westport journey.  I shot this last year in late October.

I hope you all enjoyed my little tour of this lovely corner of Washington State, Westport.  Thanks so much for taking the tour with me.