My World 3: Pt. Reyes Lighthouse

03 Nov

One of our favorite day trips is to Point Reyes National Seashore. This national seashore is vast so for now I will just highlight the lighthouse.

Here’s some background I found from Pt. Reyes dot com:

The Point Reyes Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific Ocean just north of the Golden Gate, has long been treacherous for ships traveling to and from San Francisco. In hopes of reducing the number of shipwrecks, Congress in 1852 appropriated $25,000 to build the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Coping with the precipitous location and buying the necessary property, however, delayed construction of the forged-iron-plate building, so that the beacon did not go into operation until December 1, 1870. During the delay, at least seven more ships ran aground. It is impossible to say how many of them would have been saved by the beacon, however, for shipwrecks continued – although less often – after the lighthouse was in service. Some unfortunate skippers blamed the light itself, saying it was hard to see from the south. Others blamed the lighthouse’s fog siren, saying it was hard to hear from the north.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse cast a rotating beam that could be seen for 24 nautical miles. The light came from four wicks, which burned refined lard oil. The beam was focused by a three-ton lens consisting of more than 1,000 handcut prisms and “bull’s eyes.” The jewel-like lens mounted in a brass framework was designed in France by August Jean Fresnel and built in Paris by the firm of Barbier and Fenestre. The 24-sided lens stands 7-feet, 11-inches high and 6-feet, 1-inch wide.

Keeping it fueled and free of soot was once a nonstop job in foggy weather. A San Francisco Chronicle reporter noted on September 25, 1887, that “the sirens had been in operation for 176 consecutive hours and the jaded attendants looked as if they had been on a protracted spree.”

In fact, because of incessant wind and fog on Point Reyes in some seasons, the Point Reyes Lighthouse was plagued by “incidents of insanity, alcoholism, violence, and insubordination,” notes a publication of the National Park Service, which now owns the lighthouse. One lighthouse keeper even took to drinking the alcohol shipped for cleaning the lens and “was often seen lying drunk by the roadside,” the Park Service publication added.

Originally operated by the Government Lighthouse Service, the lighthouse was taken over by the US Coast Guard in 1915. In 1966, the Park Service acquired the lighthouse station from the Coast Guard, which continued to operate the beacon and fog horn. In 1973, after the six year old nephew of a guardsman was killed by its rotating lens, the lighthouse was closed to the public. It’s beacon, which had been converted from to electricity in 1939, was turned off in 1975 and replaced by automatic equipment. In 1977, the Coast Guard turned the lighthouse over to the Park Service which — in response to an editorial campaign in The Point Reyes Light — reopened the historic structure to the public. In the years since then, the Park Service has continue to keep the old lighthouse in operating condition in case its unromantic replacement ever breaks down.

The lighthouse site is now within the Point Reyes National Seashore, and Park Service rangers are on hand to answer questions. In January and February, the Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the best places along the California Coast for seeing California Gray Whales on their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico.

Lighthouse tips:

Whenever possible, visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse on weekdays to avoid weekend crowds.

There are more than 300 stairs between the observation platform at the lighthouse station and the actual lighthouse below. Walking back up again is equivalent to walking up the stairs of a 30-story building.

The lighthouse is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On other days, it opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 4:30 p.m. although the rest of the lighthouse station remains open until 5 p.m.

For information on weather at the lighthouse, call 415 669-1534.

To reach the Point Reyes Lighthouse from Highway 1, head west on Bear Valley Road from Olema or west on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from Point Reyes Station. In Point Reyes Station, the turnoff from Highway 1 is located at the Green Bridge on the south end of town. The driving time from Point Reyes Station or Olema is about 40 minutes.

If you enjoyed this world, there’s more to be found here.  Do visit them and you’ll enjoy your cyber tour of different worlds.  My world is brought to us by the same people from Sky Watch.


Posted by on November 3, 2008 in My World


20 responses to “My World 3: Pt. Reyes Lighthouse

  1. Louise Cannon

    November 4, 2008 at 2:53 am

    This must be “lighthouse week!” Yours is adding to my thoughts that I really like lighthouses and need to see a few more in person. I love the water backgroudn with this one.

  2. Klaus

    November 4, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Yep – Lighthouse day! But I can’t complain! It is beautiful and a lot of great info along with it!
    Cheers, Klaus

  3. Lilli

    November 4, 2008 at 3:34 am

    How beautiful, we just came back from the Oregon Coast and i will be posting some photos of the lighthouse there, they are just so beautiful, this light house when you take the tour you can go to the top and photo the inside of the light, just amazing

  4. chrome3d

    November 4, 2008 at 4:38 am

    It looks so cute and small lighthouse. There must be those 300 stairs somewhere but it doesn´t show in the photo.

  5. Antigoni

    November 4, 2008 at 7:37 am

    I love lighthouses! Excellent post!

  6. gwendolen

    November 4, 2008 at 8:56 am

    What a beautiful lighthouse. I love the setting too.

  7. Reader Wil

    November 4, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Being a sailor’s daughter and an ex-sailor’s wife, I know how important lighthouses are. This one is very beautifully situated and its history is interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Luiz Ramos

    November 4, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Beautiful lighthouse. Great World.

  9. Donald Kinney

    November 4, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Very cool information and photo…
    I’ve never hiked all the way down those steps… Wish I could find the energy…

  10. wren

    November 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Nice photo! I’m looking forward to seeing more of Pt Reyes through your eyes (and lens).

  11. Michelle

    November 4, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I loved this post..What a job it would have been to keep that lit..

  12. RuneE

    November 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    There is that something special about lighthouses. A subject that might have been created with photography in mind.

  13. Carver

    November 4, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    That’s an absolutely gorgeous shot and I like your post a great deal too.

  14. Fishing Guy

    November 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    What a beautiful looking lighthouse. thanks for the description.

  15. TCKK

    November 4, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    I love your lighthouse photo. Beautiful!!

  16. 2sweetnsaxy

    November 4, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Awesome shot! Looks like a great place to visit. I’ve never been to a light house before.

  17. Brit' Gal Sarah

    November 4, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Very interesting history of the lighthouse and a great picture

  18. alicesg

    November 5, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Very interesting and beautiful photo of the lighthouse. Thanks for dropping by my blog.

  19. Erin

    November 7, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    oh these california shots make me miss home so very much…point reyes is a super spot.
    thanks for sharing.

  20. bw

    November 8, 2008 at 6:04 am

    Nice lighthouse shot 🙂


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