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Commanding Officer
Station Cape Disappointment
P.O. Box 460
322 Coast Guard Road
Ilwaco, WA 98624-0460
Phone: (360) 642-2382
Bar Reports: (360) 642-3565

Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment

P.O. Box 460
322 Coast Guard Road
Ilwaco, WA 98624-0460

Phone: (360) 642-2382
Bar Reports: (360) 642-3565

Area of Responsibility includes: Long Beach Peninsula (Ocean Park/Nahcotta, WA) the on Washington Coast, South to Tillamook Head on the Oregon Coast.

Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment, situated at the mouth of the Columbia River, is the largest Coast Guard search and rescue station on the Northwest Coast, with 50 crewmembers assigned. Cape Disappointment is also the site of the oldest search and rescue station within the Thirteenth Coast Guard District.

47 foot Motor LifeboatThe station has 5 search and rescue boats, including: the 52 foot- motor lifeboat "Triumph II" (52'-HW SPC), two 47 foot motor lifeboats
(47'-MLB), and two 29 foot second generation Defender class response boats (29'-RBS II). The 52'-HW SPC and the 47'-MLB have all been designed for operations in heavy surf conditions and are capable of being rolled over by breaking swells and re-right themselves with minimal damage.

Also co-located with the station is the oldest lighthouse on the Northwest Coast of the United States, Cape Disappointment Light, marking the north side of the Columbia River Bar. Less than two miles to the northwest is North Head lighthouse, which provides a beacon for the northern approaches to the Columbia River Bar.

The station's primary missions include (1) providing search and rescue to commercial and recreational mariners within 50 nautical miles of the Columbia River entrance and (2) providing a maritime law enforcement presence near the approaches to the Columbia River including execution of Homeland Security missions.

Commonly known as Station Cape "D", station crewmembers respond to 300-400 calls for assistance every year. The station's heaviest workload occurs during the months of early June through mid-September, when an abundance of recreational boaters transit the Columbia River entrance in search of salmon and bottom fish.

This area is regarded as one of the most treacherous river bars in the world. Because of the large number of shipwrecks near the river entrance it is often called "The Graveyard of the Pacific." During winter storms, wind-driven ocean swells often reach a height of 20-30 feet at the entrance of the bar. With the combination of strong outgoing tides and large incoming swells, large surf conditions can exist in and around the bar entrance.

The Cape Disappointment headland was first charted as 'San Roque' by a Spanish explorer named Bruno Heceta while exploring the Northwest Coast in August 1775. Heceta recognized this was probably the mouth of a large river but was unable to explore the entrance, since his crewmembers were weak suffering from scurvy.

Using Heceta's navigational charts during an expedition along the West Coast of North America in 1788, Lieutenant John Meares of the British Royal Navy locate 'San Roque.' After exploring the area, Lt. Meares decided that no river entrance or channel existed among the shoals at the base of 'San Roque' so Lt. Meares changed the name of the rocky headland to 'Cape Disappointment,' a name that has described the headland since July 1788.

Captain Robert Gray first accomplished crossing the bar several years later on 11 May 1792 aboard the USS COLUMBIA REDIVIVA. Gray and his crewmembers successfully crossed the treacherous bar and anchored in Baker Bay to trade goods with the Chinook Indians who populated the region more than two hundred years ago. The river was named in honor of this first passage.

The first U. S. Life Saving Service station at Cape Disappointment was built on the site of Fort Canby in 1877. For the first five years volunteers manned the station entirely. In 1882, the first full-time Life Saving Service crew was sworn in at this site. Then in 1915, the Life Saving Service merged with the Revenue Marine Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard. The existing station was first occupied in February 1967 and is currently the site for Station Cape Disappointment and the National Motor Lifeboat School.

Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 62 (Cape D)
Long Beach Peninsula information
Chinook Observer newspaper

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Last Modified 8/4/2014