Port Orford Lifeboat Station
The Cape Blanco Heritage Society, working with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, established a museum on this historic site June 3, 2000, giving visitors a glimpse into the life and responsibilities of the brave men who saved lives by putting their own on the line.
The two-story crew quarters and office building, the officer-in-charge residence, garage, storage building and pump house are still standing. Together with curbed driveways, areas of lawn and privet hedge surrounding the structures and the elevated paths and walkways, the ensemble conveys a particular sense of place and time.
The park’s main trails–the Cove, Tower and Headland trails– begin at the museum. From a viewpoint on the Cove Trail, watch for remnants of the stairway to Nellies Cove. The boathouse, burned down in the late 1970s, but you can still see its pilings and breakwater structures as well as portions of a rail-mounted carriage used to launch the boats into the cove.
In the museum, read about the 1942 Japanese submarine attacks off the south Oregon coast. You can also have an authentic GI "dog tag" made on a vintage machine. The Tower Trail leads to the historical location of the observation tower, which was removed when the station was decommissioned in 1970.
The park has excellent hiking trails on the headlands affording spectacular views up and down the Pacific Coast.
It was a long and complicated route to develop this Coast Guard station. The increase in shipping traffic along the Pacific Coast in the late 19th Century created an increasing problem with shipwrecks. On March 3, 1891, an act of Congress authorized the establishment of a much-needed life-saving station at or near Port Orford.
43 years later, the Port Orford station was finally commissioned at 8am, July 1, 1934. The Port Orford Lifeboat Station (Coast Guard Station #318) had a two-story crew quarters and office building, the officer-in-charge residence, garage, storage building, pump house and boat house. It was manned with an officer in charge, a crew of thirteen men, two motor lifeboats and two pulling boats (surf boats).
During World War II, the Coast Guard was placed under the US Navy, and the number of men assigned grew to well over 100 as their mission included coastal defense as well as lifesaving. Coast Guardsmen were sleeping in the attic and, with too many for the barracks, Neptune's Lodge (now the Castaway Motel) or the old Port Authority building were leased to house the overflow.
Wartime defenses were dramatic, and the site expanded to include a guardhouse, sentries, guard dogs, barbed wire, machine gun pits and foxholes. Below the foxholes stood a twenty-millimeter cannon, and there were gun lockers and cases of grenades in the armory.