Portland—Spokane Beacon 3 A: A Personal Connection

Ray Hays has submitted the following photo of his uncle, Victor Hays (born 1909), with Beacon 3 A along the Portland—Spokane Route. This beacon sat atop Beacon Rock in what is now Beacon Rock State Park, along the Columbia River. Beacon Rock is a prominent basalt plug rising to an elevation of nearly 850 feet. A trail of boardwalks and switchbacks provides hikers a path to the summit.

Victor Hays on Beacon Rock
Victor Hays on Beacon Rock

Not much is known about the photo, but Ray suspects that it was taken before World War II. It is the only photo of the beacon that exists in the state park’s archives. I was unable to find any other images of the beacon online.

Beacon Rock has an interesting history. Surprisingly (or at least I was surprised by the coincidence!), it was named Beacon Rock long before the airway beacon was placed there. In fact, it was originally designated Beacon Rock by Lewis and Clark in 1806. By some point in the 1800s—sources vary on the date—the feature was more commonly known as Castle Rock. Then in 1915, the feature’s name was officially changed back to Beacon Rock by the USGS Board on Geographic Names.

The airway beacon was in place at least as early as 1931, as it appears on an airway map from 1931. (It can also be seen on the maps from 1933 and 1934).

The beacon was first observed as an intersection station by the Coast & Geodetic Survey in 1938. And it was destroyed before 2004, as reported by Geocachers and the U.S. Power Squadron. Ray Hays’ friend Ken Cole remembers the beacon up on the rock and thinks it blew over in a bad wind storm in the 1950s. He is quite sure it was before the Columbus Day storm of 1962.


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