As we drove north on Highway 1, the Cabrillo Highway, along the Pacific Coast on our way to San Fransisco, I spotted a lighthouse visible high on a bluff along the coast. Of course, our immediate destination changed and we headed down Pigeon Point Road to find a state historic park at the end of the drive.
As we got closer, I could see the lighthouse looked to be in need of at least a fresh coat of paint. We would soon learn that it needs much more than that to make it safe for visitors. The 115-foot (35 m) tall lighthouse is currently closed for its sorely needed renovation. Closed since 2001 due to a section of the iron ring falling away, a project is underway to raise the funding to restore the lighthouse to its former beauty.
In 1909 the fog signal building went online. The giant horns can be heard 5 miles (8 km) at sea. Today, the building is the visitor center for the park. As we approached the building, I saw an interesting glow coming through the partially open door. Of course, I had to check it out.
Inside the visitor center, the original Fresnel lens with over 1,000 elements is displayed after its disassembly and removal from the lighthouse. Once on the ground, the lens was carefully reassembled and is now on display in the visitor center. The lighthouse is still in use, this 1008-element lens was originally powered by a 5-wick lard oil lamp and went online on November 15, 1872. Today the U.S. Coast Guard is in charge of the automated LED beacon that now replaces the giant lens assembly.
If you look at Google Maps, you’ll see why this light station was placed here. This point juts out from the mainland and the hazard to boats and ships following the coastline is easily discerned. This view shows some of the buildings at the light station. A typical light station includes the lighthouse tower, the station keeper’s residence, the fog signal building, and other ancillary buildings as necessary.
There were a couple of people fishing from the rocks below the cliff at Pigeon Point and visitors might be lucky enough to see seals and even whales as they navigate by the point. In November 2022, the park staff celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the park. There are 30-minute guided tours available, staff permitting. Details can be found on the park’s website here. You can even take a virtual tour of the light station on that page. You can also virtually climb to the top of the lighthouse interior and check out the coastline with a 360-degree view. The link to the tour is here.
The light station came to be after the loss of a clipper ship, the Carrier Pigeon that ran aground on this point in 1853. The ship, constructed only one year earlier, left Bath Maine for San Fransisco on her maiden voyage. Heavy fog at the point was to be the end for the brand new ship that had completely sailed around Cape Horn without incident. From that day, plans were made to build the light station, but it took 20 years for the station to be finished. On clear nights, the powerful LED light array can be seen for 22 miles (35 km).
There is a hostel on-site for people wishing to stay overnight. A small public beach is available for visitors and a few picnic tables are available for that picnic lunch on a sunny summer day.
Visitors can easily spend a couple of hours here at the point. There are several placards placed around the site to describe the features of the light station. I’ve included some extra images on my Flickr site in 2K HD. You can view the entire gallery of images here.
I can’t imagine taking that light apart, and then reassemble yet! It looks like an interesting place to visit and some wonderful views, too.
In my most recent travels, I saw one that was partly disassembled. It looks like a puzzle with big reflective pieces. 🙂
A great place to visit John. I love lighthouses 🙂
Great clicks and thanks for the history.
Love Fresnel lens.
Thanks for an interesting and great photos about this lighthouse. I may have driven by it a couple of times but did not see it, probably because of the hostel. Those clouds in your photos say San Francisco weather!
True that. Much of our journey along the coast was like that.
I love lighthouses. This one is a beauty!
It is, indeed. It sure needs work, though. I hope they are successful in funding a restoration.
Great pictures of one of my favorite lighthouses. Now that we have a trailer again, I’d like to go up the coast, visiting all the lighthouses along the way.
That would be a great excursion.
The Fresnel lens is fabulous! Can’t imagine the effort they put into it…
Beautiful lighthouse images.
Those lenses were a watershed invention for large lighthouse applications, for sure.
I grew up in NorCal, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to Pigeon Point. Now I want to go! Thanks for sharing this lovely place.
We just happened to spot the Lighthouse out on the way by. We are glad we saw it in the distance.
I absolutely love lighthouses! Those Fresnel lenses are incredible too 🙂
They are indeed, Lindy!
Thank you John for sharing your wonderful pictures. Love all of them.
Thank you John for sharing your wonderful pictures .I love all of them.
Thank you for reading!
Sad to read that the lighthouse came into being following such a tragedy, but I suppose the silver lining is that if you are going to depart this mortal coil at least it happened in a beautiful place…
So many of our nation’s lighthouses were the reaction to a tragedy such as this one.
Beautiful photographs. What a terrific lighthouse and beautiful setting.
Thank you. It is a beautiful location!
That Fresnel lens is a work of art. How nice to see it up close and in such beautiful condition. Thank you for sharing your discovery and your beautiful photos.
Indeed. It’s the first time I’d seen one up close with a light behind it.