Pigeon Point Light Station – 150 Years in Operation

Pigeon Point Light Station

Pescadero, California.

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.

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The Fog Signal building.

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.

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The Fresnel lens.

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.

The Light Station at Pigeon Point.

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.

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The California coast looking south from Pigeon Point.

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.

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Pigeon Point.

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).

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Pigeon Point Hostel.

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.

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Viewpoint near the light station.

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.

John Steiner


  1. 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!

  2. 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…

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