Profiles of 6 CA Lighthouses
Location: Point Cabrillo Preserve, CA
Point Cabrillo Drive off Highway 1
Point Cabrillo is a wooden octagonal lighthouse tower that was built in 1909 and is 47 feet tall. It has a black cast iron lantern with a third-order Fresnel lens. The focal plane of the light is 84 feet above sea level. In 1973, the lighthouse was automated and the lens was replaced by an aerobeacon. Restoration began in 1996 and the third-order lens is now in use again. Located on a beautiful 300 acre preserve that offers many great views of the coast and local wildlife, the lighthouse is open weekends only from March through October. Guided walks are available on Sundays from May through September.
Point Arena Light
Location: Point Arena, California
Lighthouse Road off Highway 1
The original brick lighthouse at Point Arena was completed and first lit in 1870. In 1871, the United States Congress granted eight thousand five hundred dollars for the construction of a first-class steam fog signal (Public Acts of the Forty-First Congress, Third Session). The1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed most out-buildings and severely damaged the light's tower. During construction of the new lighthouse, the first-order Fresnel lens was placed on a temporary tower until a new one was completed in 1909. The new lighthouse was the first in the U.S. to have a steel reinforced concrete tower and stands at a height of 115 feet, with a focal plane of 155 feet above sea level. The lens has been inactive since the lighthouse was automated in 1977. The original fog signal building is now a museum.
Point Reyes Light
Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
Point Reyes peninsula off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
In 1870 the United States Congress granted forty five thousand dollars for the construction of a lighthouse and fog-signal at Point Reyes (Public Acts of the Forty-First Congress, Second Session). The 35 foot tall light tower housed a first-order Fresnel lens. The focal plane of the light is 294 above sea level. Point Reyes light is no longer operational - it was deactivated in 1975 and a modern automated light was placed on the fog-signal building. Reaching this lighthouse requires a hike of about half a mile from the parking lot and a descent of over 300 steps.
Location: Golden Gate Recreation Area, CA
Off Highway 101, approximately 2 miles Northwest of the entrance to San Francisco Bay
Point Bonita was the third lighthouse built in California. In 1855, a second-order Fresnel lens was placed in a 56-foot tower, creating a focal plane of 306 feet above sea level. Point Bonita was also the location of the west coast's first fog signal - a cannon that was used from 1856 until 1858, when it was replaced by a fog bell. In 1871, the United States Congress granted ten thousand dollars for the construction of a first class steam fog signal at Point Bonita (Public Acts of the Forty-First Congress, Third Session). The current lighthouse tower was built in 1877 to house the original second-order Fresnel lens and is 33 feet tall. This tower's new location helped increase the effectiveness of the light by placing it below the frequent high fog. The focal plane of the light is now 140 feet above sea level. The light was automated in 1980 and is still active today.
Location: Montara, CA
Highway 1 between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay.
In 1873 the United States Congress granted fifteen thousand dollars for the construction of a steam fog-signal at Point Montara (Public Acts of the Forty-Second Congress, Third Session). The fog signal was first established in 1875 to guide sailors through the heavy fog that contributed to many shipwrecks in the area. The steam whistle was the third fog signal operating on the coast of California. A light, created from a red lens lantern that hung from a post, was first established in 1900. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was brought onsite in 1912 and a skeleton tower made of wood was built to hold it. That tower was replaced in 1928 with a 30-foot tall steel tower and octagonal cast iron lantern, giving the lighthouse a focal plane of 70 feet above sea level. The light was automated in 1970 and the Fresnel lens was replaced with a smaller, modern optic. This light is still active today and is leased for use as a hostel by American Youth Hostels, Inc.
Pigeon Point Light
Location: Pescadero, CA
About five miles south of Pescadero, off Highway 1
Built in 1872, the Pigeon Point Light still houses its original first-order Fresnel lens which is thought to have been used previously in the Cape Hatteras Light. With a tower height of 115 feet and a focal plane of 148 feet, this lighthouse was built to warn mariners of the dangerous coastline nearby, which, prior to its construction, had contributed to more than four major shipwrecks since the 1850's. The light was automated in 1972 but is still lit every November as part of an anniversary ceremony. Nearby buildings built by the Coast Guard in the 1960's are now part of the Pigeon Point Hostel run by American Youth Hostels, Inc.
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