Park Brochure

For a good introduction to park resources, pick up a brochure at the Entrance Station or Visitor Center.
For a good introduction to park resources, pick up a brochure at the Entrance Station or Visitor Center.

NPS Photo


Brochure Formats

Get a copy of our Park Brochure at the Entrance Station or the Visitor Center.
The park brochure is available in a variety of formats including braille, audio described, and text-only.

Braille Version Option

For your convenience, a Braille translation version of the park brochure is available at the Visitor Center. You can also download the braille version of the brochure. Please note, you must have access to a Braille printer to make use of this file.
Cabrillo Brochure (Braille format)


Audio-Described Version

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Cabrillo National Monument’s official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, artifacts and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Cabrillo National Monument visitors receive. This audio version lasts about 30 minutes which we have divided into 44 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections 1 to 28 cover the front of the brochure and include information about the cultural history of the park and its location within the greater San Diego area. Sections 29 to 44 cover the back of the brochure. Highlights include descriptions of the Point Loma lighthouse and its interior, the Bayside trail hike and remnants of World War II fortifications.

Download a folder of audio files. Open the files in your preferred mp3 player to listen to each section of the brochure.


Text Only Version

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Cabrillo National Monument’s official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, artifacts and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Cabrillo National Monument visitors receive. This audio version lasts about 30 minutes which we have divided into 44 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections 1 to 28 cover the front of the brochure and include information about the cultural history of the park and its location within the greater San Diego area. Sections 29 to 44 cover the back of the brochure. Highlights include descriptions of the Point Loma lighthouse and its interior, the Bayside trail hike and remnants of World War II fortifications.

OVERVIEW: Cabrillo National Monument

In the southwest corner of United States, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, is San Diego. The city is built beside one of the west coast's finest natural harbors where ships can take shelter from the punishing winds of the Pacific. The western side of that harbor is a peninsula extending 4 miles south of the mainland, out into the Pacific Ocean. In 1913 part of the southernmost mile of that peninsula was dedicated as "Cabrillo National Monument", commemorating the arrival in 1542, of the explorer, Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo, the first European to set foot in what is now California. From a height of 300 to 400 feet above sea level, Cabrillo National Monument has a commanding view of the city's skyline to the east and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to the south and west.

Front side of brochure

The front of the brochure includes contemporary and historic photographs of a variety of artifacts, such as Cabrillo's navigational instruments, and the San Diego bay harbor entrance in addition to two maps of the greater San Diego Bay area and the Cabrillo National Monument. The associated text outlines Cabrillo's voyage and expedition and his encounters with the native people, the Kumeyaay Indians, when arriving in California.

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo

Photo description:On the east side of our monument, overlooking San Diego harbor is a grey sandstone statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo as he may have looked in 1542. A man in his middle years, with shoulder length hair and a closely cropped beard, he stands erect with his sword at his side, looking out over the harbor that secures his place in history. Directly behind the likeness of the explorer is a column bearing the coat of arms topped with a cross.

Photo caption:This statue is a more durable replica of a temporary one originally created for a 1935 world exposition in San Francisco.


Section Text:Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is as mysterious as the waters he explored. While much is unknown, we are certain about this: Cabrillo was the first European to set foot on the west coast of what is now the United States. His expedition brought Spain’s first great era of exploration to a close.Cabrillo set out on his epic voyage of exploration 50 years after Columbus landed in America. Commanding three vessels, he sailed north from Mexico into unknown waters. He was to claim land for the king of Spain, discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands, search the uncharted coast for the Strait of Anián (a mythical passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic), chart the coast, and search for gold. Cabrillo National Monument was established in 1913 to commemorate this explorer and his historic journey. Cabrillo’s original navigational log was lost, and the details of his voyage and the circumstances of his death come from a summary account compiled after the expedition returned to Mexico. Cabrillo came to the Americas by 1510. He gained prominence as a crossbowman in the conquest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) by Hernán Cortés. Later, he joined Pedro de Alvarado to conquer and settle Guatemala. Ambitious and well educated, Cabrillo became a wealthy landowner and a shipbuilder. After Alvarado died in a native uprising, Antonio de Mendoza, viceroy of New Spain, gave Cabrillo command of the vessels San Salvador, La Victoria, and San Miguel. On June 27, 1542, sponsored by Antonio de Mendoza, Cabrillo and his crew sailed north from Navidad to “discover the coast of New Spain.”

San Diego Bay

Photo description :This panoramic, color photograph covers the top third of the front side of the brochure. The photograph is a wide-angle shot of the San Diego Bay from an elevated position of Point Loma, a Peninsula where the Cabrillo National Monument is situated. The wide-ranging photograph overlooks the entire waterway entrance of the San Diego Bay, the outline of the urban San Diego city area, and the hilly San Diego mountain range, all in one single image.

In the foreground of the image, a big and wide river mouth is seen, along with a small seawall on the right of the photo, which separates the harbor entrance from the San Diego beach, which is located even further far right in the image. In the foreground, a couple of unidentifiable sea vessels, which enter and exit the harbor can barely be identified due to the vast distance of this panoramic shot. From the point-of-view of the photograph, the entrance to the San Diego Bay is located on the left of the image and can be described as a wide, natural river mouth which turns slowly inland in a clockwise fashion. In the center of the panoramic photo, located further landwards if the harbor entrance and bent river mouth, the San Diego Skyline is captured consisting of multiple skyscrapers on the center right, and what appears to be a less dense, urban area on the left of the image. Even further landwards in the very far distance of this photograph, the Laguna Mountain ridge can be seen, which is covered in just a fraction of haze. The mountain range spans the full, upper left to upper right of this panoramic photo, which seems to have been taken on a sunny, clear day.

Source:Steven C. Tietsworth

Un puerto cerrado y muy bueno

Section Text:On September 28, 1542, Cabrillo’s flotilla entered a harbor that he described as “a closed and very good port.” Coastal sage scrub covered the hills and valleys. Cabrillo stepped ashore on a silvery strand of beach and named the area San Miguel, the site of modern San Diego. He stayed in San Miguel six days to wait out a storm, then resumed his voyage up the coast. They sighted the islands of Santa Catalina and San Clemente, which Cabrillo named San Salvador and La Victoria, after his vessels. A day later the expedition turned toward the mainland, into what is now San Pedro Bay. The summary log recounts that the horizon was smoky. Cabrillo named it Bahía de Los Fumos—--Bay of Smokes—which is today’s Los Angeles.

Unsolved Mystery

Photo description:There is almost no physical evidence of the passage of Cabrillo and his crew with the exception of a single piece of stone found on Santa Rosa Island in 1901. This artifact is an unfinished piece of gray stone, about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide and four deep, etched with a cross, a stick figure of a man and the letters "JR." It may be that this stone once marked the grave of one Rodriguez club Rio, but we may never know.

Photo caption:Many people believe this stone (above) once marked the grave of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Found on Santa Rosa Island in 1901, it is etched with a cross, stick figure of a man, and the letters JR.

Source:Courtesy Lowie Museum Of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.

Section Text:In November the expedition stopped for water on the island Spaniards had dubbed Isla de la Posesión, one of the Channel Islands. Exactly what happened is a mystery. One account says that Cabrillo, while rushing to aid his men during a fight with Chumash Indians, jumped from a boat and broke his leg. Another version notes that he had broken his arm near the shoulder on an earlier visit to La Posesión. Whatever happened, complications ensued—with fatal results. On January 3, 1543, his goals of exploration unfulfilled, Cabrillo died. The cause of death was probably infection.Chief pilot Bartolomé de Ferrer (Ferrelo) took command and, heeding Cabrillo’s wishes to discover more coastland, headed north. How far they got is unclear, but they may have reached the Rogue River area in Oregon. In March La Victoria disappeared in a storm. Reunited after three weeks, Ferrer and the crew abandoned the expedition, returning to Navidad on April 14, 1543.The expedition claimed over 800 miles of coastline for Spain. It did not find a route to Asia or the Spice Islands, the mythical Strait of Anián, or gold. What Cabrillo did accomplish was of lasting importance. His voyage added knowledge of landmarks, winds, and currents, making later exploration safer. Based in part on his voyage, a west-to-east Pacific crossing 22 years later set up trade routes between New Spain and the Philippines, paving the way for the Manila galleons and helping link the world’s continents. The Spanish age of exploration gave way to the Colonial era.

Cabrillo's flagship

Photo description: As he came up the coast, Cabrillo commanded two sizeable ships and a smaller vessel for shallow water, coastal exploration.Even the largest of these would be unimpressive by modern standards. The San Salvador was about one hundred feet long and twenty four feet across her main deck. She featured two main mast, from which were hung big square sails that could make the most of a "following " breeze as well as a jib at the bow and a mizzen mast, aft, where triangular, "lateen" sails, could be deployed to keep her moving forward even if a wind from port or starboard was the best that could be had.

Photo caption:Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador, was a full-rigged galleon of modest size. It carried officers, crew, slaves, soldiers and priests as well as food and water for a voyage of a year or more.

Source:NPS / John Batchelor

Navigational instruments

Photo description:Cabrillo, of course, had no map to sail by. Indeed, one of his most important jobs was to create new maps of the west coast as he fought his way northward, against unfavorable winds. To assist him in his navigation and mapping of the coast, Cabrillo had a number of vey basic, but serviceable tools at his disposal. Besides his compass, he is likely to have used a Quadrant, a brass instrument shaped like piece of pie and roughly the size of a dinner plate. Along the curved edge are graduations from zero to ninety degrees. A small plumb line hangs from the opposite point. Sighting along the edge at the North Star, the plumb line will hang across the graduations and give a mariner a rough idea of his latitude. The Astrolabe, a heavy brass disk about saucer size, looked very different but was similarly used to find one's latitude.A sand glass, usually measuring thirty minutes, was also an important piece of navigation equipment. When the glass was turned, the ship's bell was rung and the speed and course of the ship were recorded. A captain who had that information and a map could then start from their point of origin and reconstruct his voyage using time, speed and course to determine his current location.

Photo caption: Cabrillo used navigational instruments like these on his voyage. The astrolabe calculates positions of stars; the half hourglass measures time; and the quadrant determines your position at sea.

Source:© Cliff Dickey

Section Text:There is no text for this section.

Kumeyaay Indians

Image description: This image shows a colored print of a historical Kumeyaay engraving depicting what appears to be a Kumeyaay family with their horse and dog. The family consists of three members. In the center of the image is a man with chest-long, black hair dressed in what appears to be a traditional blue poncho over an arm-long, white undergarment. The man is facing the viewer of the image and holds a walking stick in his left hand. Behind the man, is a horse and a woman with toddler depicted. The woman is sitting on the horse, holding her toddler in her arms. The man appears to be leading the horse as he grips the horses reins in his right hand. The scene is depicted in the in the plains with a distant mountain range in the far back of the image. Image caption:1857 Kumeyaay engraving.

Source: Courtesy of Schott, Arthur, Sorony, & CO., NY

Section Text:Sailing north from Mexico, Cabrillo knew that the land he was to claim for Spain was occupied. He hoped to find an formerly unknown people who, like the Aztecs, had great quantities of gold and silver. Entering this harbor, he saw Kumeyaay (‘Ipay and Tipay) Indians on shore. Some wore their long hair, in braids that were decorated with feathers or shells. Some of the men wore capes made of sea otter, seal, or deer skin.By mimicking men with lances on horse-back and painting themselves to show armor, the Kumeyaay communicated that other Spaniards, who were now several days’ journey inland, had killed many Indians. That would have been the De Anza expedition.But Cabrillo gave the Kumeyaay gifts, saying he wouldn’t harm them. They looked prosperous, he observed, and fished far out to sea in reed canoes. The Kumeyaay, a hunting and gathering society, lived well by understanding and managing their environment. They made pottery, baskets, and jewelry, made from abalone and other shells, that they traded to their neighbors.

Planning Your Visit

Map of Cabrillo National Monument

Map description:This map show the larger area surrounding Cabrillo National Monument. The monument is located on the Point Loma Pensinsula, with San Diego bay on the east and the pacific ocean on the west. From the visitor center, the old Point Loma lighthouse is located southbound, accessible through the Bayside trail. All the way south, about a quarter mile, is the point of the peninsula, where Point Loma Light Station is next to an United States Coast Guard reservation. Southwest from the visitor center is the Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook, about a quarter mile southwest from that location tide pools can be accessed.

Map caption:NPS
Source:Not applicable

Map of San Diego Bay

Map description:This map shows the greater San Diego Area with San Diego in the center. South of San Diego is the San Diego International Airport, the San Diego bay and harbor entrance. Northwards I-5 leads out of San Diego and passes Mission Bay, eastwards I-8 leads to the Cabrillo Freeway. The location of the Cabrillo National Monument is clearly indicated in the south-western corner on the Point Loma Peninsula, which is accessible via Catalina Boulevard.

Map caption:NPS
Source:Not applicable

Enjoying the Park

Visitor Center

Section Text:Stop first at the visitor center, open daily, for park information, exhibits, films, panoramic harbor views, and foreign language and Braille brochures. The Cabrillo Store, run by the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation, offers publications on area cultural and military history, plants and animals, and Cabrillo and other explorers.

Seeing the Park

Section Text:The park is open for day use only. There is an en-trance fee. It is an easy walk from the visitor center to the Cabrillo statue, Coast Defense Exhibit, Old Point Loma Lighthouse, assistant keeper’s quarters and lighthouse exhibit, and Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook. To visit the tide-pool area, drive to the park road and look for the signs. Self-guiding exhibits along walkways and at over-looks explain the area’s plants, animals, and history. The park has no food service, but you are welcome to picnic on park benches.

Bayside Trail

Section Text: This trail (2.5 miles roundtrip) descends about 300 feet through native coastal sage scrub, passing remnants of the defense system that protected the harbor during World Wars I and II. No restrooms, drinking water, or beach access.


Section Text:The visitor center, films, exhibits, Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook, and harbor overlooks are accessible to visitors with wheelchairs. A pass to drive to the lighthouse is available at the entrance station or visitor center. Service animals are welcome.


Section Text:For firearms regulations check the park website.

More Information

Section Text:This is one of over 390 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities, please visit

Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106-3601
619-222-8211 TTY

In an emergency call 911.

For a Safe Visit

Section Text:Please be alert and observe these safety tips and regulations:

Cliffs and Tidepools

Section Text:Sandstone cliffs are very dangerous. Stay back from edges—they can give way and falls can be fatal. Tidepool rocks are slippery and barnacles sharp; wear sturdy non-slip shoes. Driving to the tidepool is best; the road has no shoulder and steep drop-offs.


Section Text:Federal law prohibits removing, collecting, or damaging plants, animals, fossils, shells, rocks or cultural artifacts. Do not release plants or animals in the park. Take your recyclables and trash with you when you leave the park or put them in the bins provided. Smoking is permitted only in parking areas. Cabrillo National Monument is a smoke-free park. All areas of the park are closed to smoking, which includes tobacco cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and vaping.


Section Text:Stay on trails to prevent erosion and protect sensitive plants.

Wild Animals

Section Text: Beware of rattlesnakes and biting animals. Do not put your hands or feet in places you cannot see. Do not feed wildlife.


Section Text: Please leave pets at home. If you bring pets, they are allowed only in tidepool areas and must be on a six-foot leash at all times. Pets left in vehicles even for a short time may suffer heat stroke and die.


Section Text: Thefts can happen wherever you travel. Don’t tempt thieves: Lock your valuables out of sight or keep them with you.

Getting Here

Section Text: The park is in San Diego at the end of Point Loma.

By Bus: 
Public buses make daily trips, Monday through Friday only, to the park (except the tidepool area) from the Old Town Transit Center, transferring at Shelter Island.

By Vehicle:
From southbound I-5
take Rosecrans Street (Calif. 209) exit; turn right on Cañon Street; turn left onto Catalina Blvd.

From northbound I-5
take Pacific Highway to Barnett, turn left on Rosecrans Street.

From westbound I-8
take Rosecrans Street exit; turn right on Cañon Street; turn left onto Catalina Blvd. Follow the signs to the park.

Back side of brochure

Side two of the brochure is comprised of 10 photos, with a larger colored photo depicting a full view of the Point Loma Lighthouse. The remaining images show impressions of the inside of the Lighthouse complex, depict local flora and fauna, such as buckwheat and hummingbirds or show remnants of military installations of World War II. All images will be audio-described in their own sections and presented with associated text.

Exploring Cabrillo Today

The Tidepools: a Fragile World at the Edge of the Sea

Photo description:In much of nature, camouflage is both a way to catch your prey as well as avoid being eaten. Sea anemones are one of the most common creatures in our tide pools. They are often mistaken for some sort of palm-sized underwater flower, with their off-white "petals" arrayed around a green/ gray center. Those petals are, in fact, tentacles that will sting and then close around any tiny fish foolish enough to explore this "flower" too closely.

Photo caption: If disturbed by a tide pool visitor, sea anemones curl in their tentacles and shrink to a ball.

Source: National Park Service / Dan Richards

Section Text: Cabrillo National Monument has one of the best preserved rocky intertidal areas open to the public on southern California’s coast. This marine habitat’s survival depends on the health of the ocean and land around it. Changes in one environment alter the other: oil spills, erosion and sediment buildup, trash, and polluted run-off can destroy the tidepools.

Survival of the plants and animals in the rocky intertidal zone also depends on you. Please walk gently. To remove a plant or animal from its environment, or even to move it from one side of a tidepool to the other, could kill it. All forms of life in tidepools are protected by federal law and should not be disturbed or removed. Please observe the natural behavior of these creatures in their native environment rather than handling them.

The Pacific Gray Whale

Image description: The silhouette of the Pacific Gray Whale may seem very fish-like, except that the "tail fins, called "fluke"s, are horizontal rather than vertical, as they are on true fish.

Image caption: Adult gray whales weigh from 20 to 45 tons and may grow to 50 feet long. Their cruising speed is two to four miles per hour. They can dive deeper than 200 feet and can stay under-water for as long as 20 minutes.

Source: National Park Service / Salvador Bru

Section Text: Gray whales pass Point Loma on their yearly round-trip migration of 12,000 miles. They leave summer feeding grounds in the Arctic in September and return to the Baja California Sur bays, where females bear calves.

In spring they head north; cows with calves are last to leave the lagoons. The herd that passes here was so heavily hunted that by the 1920s only a few thousand remained. National appeals and protection by international treaties saved them from extinction. Now over 25,000 gray whales migrate this route. Viewing is best in January and February. Watch for their spout, or blow, beyond the kelp beds. When a whale surfaces to breathe, it exhales a plume of air and water about 15 feet into the air.

A Coastal Mediterranean Ecotype

Photo description:As in the rest of southern California, tall trees are not common here, on Point Loma but a thick covering of lesser vegetation graces our peninsula. A dense cover of succulents and sage brush grows from waist to chest height wherever no road or structure has been built. During World War Two, our peninsula had a key role in the defense of San Diego and southern California. The military had to be able to move men quickly and efficiently. The roads and trails that cross and recross our park are almost exclusively left over from those dark days when the Japanese fleet was expected at any time. This color photograph depicts such dirt and gravel road, which is now an especially fine hiking trail that winds a mile down the eastern slope of the park through dense brush on either side. Because the vegetation is inclined to be low growing, the spectacular views of the harbor, the military base on Coronado Island and the San Diego skyline, to the east, are unobstructed.

Photo caption: Bayside Trail follows an old U.S. Army roadway through the coastal Mediterranean ecotype. This plant community is unusual here because it has a number of succulents like prickly pear and dudleya. Also growing along the trail are toyon, lemonade berry, encelia, black sage, and chaparral broom. Native plants are often unable to compete with non-native invaders; do not release plants or animals into the park.

Source: National Park Service

Section Text:Plant communities on Point Loma—coastal sage succulent scrub, southern maritime chaparral, southern coastal bluff scrub, and southern foredune scrub—are among the few remaining protected stands of this ecotype. This blend of aromatic sages, low-growing shrubs, succulents, flowers, and grasses was home for abundant native mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Development has swallowed over 70 percent of this ecotype in southern California. Hundreds of native species are endangered, threatened, or extinct—the nation’s longest such list. The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Veterans Affairs, and City of San Diego work to preserve these rare, sensitive communities. The resulting Point Loma Ecological Conservation Area hosts diverse species: peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, gray fox, California ground squirrel, cottontail, western fence and side-blotched lizards, Anna’s hummingbird, southern Pacific rattlesnake, coyote, western red bat, California trapdoor spider, and wart-stemmed Ceanothus.


Photo description:This color photograph shows a close-up of flowering Buckwheat. It shows about 4 dozen Buckwheat blooms, mostly in white with traces of pink color. While the focus of the image is clearly on the large and plentiful blooming heads, two small, thin stems and a few needle-like leaves can be seen as well in the picture.

Photo caption:Buckwheat adds variety to the colors of the hillsides all year.

Source: National Park Service


Photo description:This color, close-up, crisp photograph shows a Costa Hummingbird sitting on what appears to be a root of a tree. In the foreground and center of the photograph is the Costa Hummingbird clearly visible. In the background, two deep-green leaves and a few gray-brown, tree branches can be seen. Due to the focus of the image, the background is blurry. The Costa's long, thin, black snail transitions into it's pitch-black eye. It's forehead is light-brown colored, while the lower part of the head is covered in white feathers. The upper and lower back of the bird is covered with green-yellow and grey colored feathers. Due to the bird sitting on the tree branch, it's grey-colored wings are aligned to it's underbelly. The photograph indicates that is was likely taken on a sunny day as due to the vivid colors of the bird in the fornt, and the lush greens of the leaves in the back of the photograph.

Photo caption: Costa’s, rufous, and Allen’s hummingbirds may be seen during migration. Anna’s hummingbirds live here year-round.

Source: Copyright by Phillip Roullard

Indian paintbrush

Photo description:This photograph shows a single Indian paintbrush. The paintbrush in the picture is probably 2-4 feet tall and displays about 3 dozens of distinctly bright, red blooms. The brush grows out of a what appears to be a dry piece of grassland. In the background of the photograph, a white-yellow rockformation fills the image.

Photo caption: Indian paintbrush grows in the sandstone cliffs.

Source: Copyright by Frank S. Balthis

Defending the Harbor

Photo description:Set into the steep western and southern slopes of our park are dozens of small observation bunkers, also known as fire control stations. Only the upper portion of these structures are visible above ground, resembling concrete mushroom tops. Their roughened, sand colored roofs would have been difficult to identify from any distance at sea, even if not covered with camouflage nets. A few are two stories deep and include bunk space for soldiers anxiously awaiting the arrival of an enemy fleet.

Photo caption:Fire control stations helped artillery batteries direct their fire. The observers in these bunkers could track enemy targets and relay their positions to the command posts and gun batteries. This information was used to aim the guns accurately.

Source: Copyright by Cliff Dickey

Section Text: Point Loma forms a natural protective barrier at the entrance of San Diego Bay. A sandstone rampart jutting into the sea, the peninsula rises 422 feet and provides strategic views of the harbor and ocean. In 1852 the U.S. government recognized this important landmark and designated the area as a military reserve. In 1899 the War Department dedicated Fort Rosecrans and, over the years, built a series of gun batteries. During World Wars I and II military facilities on the point provided vital coast and harbor defense systems. Between 1918 and 1943, the Army built searchlight bunkers, fire control stations (right), and gun batteries. The largest guns were at Battery Ashburn, west of the park en-trance, where two 16-inch guns could fire 2,300-pound shells nearly 30 miles out to sea. The military also painted the Old Point Loma Lighthouse olive green and used it as a command post and radio station.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Photo description:The Old Point Loma Lighthouse consists of a two story gabled home with a cottage next to it. The property is surrounded with a picket-fence. The main building has a rectangular layout. The entrance door, accessed by an eight foot stairway, punctuates the center of one long side. That door is flanked by two small windows on each side. The gables reduce the wall space available on the upper floor so the second floor windows, one at each end of the building, look out from under the peak of the roof. Painted a nice, bright white, it might seem at home on any 19th century street, except for the cylindrical tower that extends yet another full story from the center of the house. That cylinder is topped with a round glass "lantern" room where the great light, resembling a 60 gallon glass barrel, is contained.

Photo caption:The dimensions and plans for the first eight American lighthouses on the west coast, including the Point Loma light, were identical to a great many such structures already standing along the east coast and the shores of the great lakes.

Source: Copyright by Steven C. Tietsworth

Section Text: It is a reminder of different times: of sailing ships and oil lamps and the men and women who tended these isolated coastal lights. It was a demanding job. A dedicated keeper was on-duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no vacations. In 1851 the U.S. Coastal Survey selected this headland as the site for a navigational aid. The crest stood 422 feet above sea level and overlooked the bay and ocean. At the time it seemed like the ideal location.

Builders completed the lighthouse in 1854, and in 1855 installed a Fresnel lens, the best technology of that day. At dusk, November 15, 1855, keeper James P. Keating lit the oil lamp for the first time. For the next 36 years, except on foggy nights, the light welcomed sailors to San Diego harbor. The lamps were rated to be seen at 26 to 28 miles, but mariners reported seeing the light from 30 to 32 miles. One report, unconfirmed, claimed to see the light from 39 miles away. Eleven keepers and 22 assistant keepers, including two women, Eliza Jenkins and María Israel, tended the light.But what seemed like the right location had a serious flaw. Fog and low clouds often obscured the light. On March 23, 1891, keeper Robert Israel extinguished the lamp for the last time. Boarding up the lighthouse, Israel, with his wife María and their family, moved into a new light station at the bottom of the hill.

The Lighthouse Kitchen

Photo description:This photograph is of the inside of the In old point Loma lighthouse. It depicts parts of the kitchen in its original appearance, including a a small wood burning stove, principally used for cooking, but as well to warm part of the house. Medium sized windows on the eat and west sides of the building make the kitchen a cheery place, flooded with light from the rising sun in the morning and the setting sun that evening . On the wall beside the west facing window is a sizable clock, quietly ticking, as clocks will do. In the corner, beneath the clock is a metal bath tub, awaiting its turn to take center stage on Saturday night . On the right of our photograph, against the wall, is a cabinet holding all the necessary items for a modern kitchen: mugs and sugar bowls, coffee grinders and flowers sifters, cheese cutters and shredding boards. On the table in the foreground is a teapot and cup. The lighthouse keeper has turned back the red checkered tablecloth to provide an appropriate space for playing solitaire as he waits for the dawn

Photo caption:Like today, the kitchen was the hub of family life at the lighthouse.

Source: Copyright by Cliff Dickey

Section Text:There is no text for this section.

Kerosene lamp

Photo description:While the days are often the sunny in San Diego, the actual hours of daylight, versus dark, are the same for any location on our latitude line. As the winter comes on and the days grow shorter, the lighthouse family depend more and more on the artificial light provided by their kerosene lamps, the same kerosene that is the fuel for the métis lamp in the tower on that structure. The tower lantern can be sheen for many miles offshore as it had three concentric wicks, the largest of which was the size of a firehose. The lights for the family residence, however, were rather feeble by comparison. This image depicts a kerosene lamp for interior use. The base of this lamp is cast in brass with some delicate designs. The fuel reservoir it supports, about the size of a fist, is of opaque glass and the chimney is all but obscured but a green metal shade painted with a floral design. The lamp stand on a table in the inside of the lighthouse. in

Photo caption:Although the light from a kerosene lamp would seem feeble, compared to a modern table lamp, it was adequate for the needs of the lighthouse family.

Source: Copyright by Cliff Dickey


Photo description:This image shows the interior of the parlor or the cottage next to the lighthouse. The center of the image is dominated by an open-wood fireplace. Various historical pictures, landscape paintings and a grandfather clock hang on wall, but are all to small to small to be described in detail. The wall itself is covered in beige wallpaper with vertical brown patterns running from the top to the bottom. In the left of the image, a table with a oversized tablecloth is seen. On top of the table are a book with a grey-brown binding and a green-shaded kerosene lamp. On right of the picture is a black recliner, behind a corner of the dining table The floor is covered with what appears to he a heavy, in mostly darker colors with a light-colored, rose center design.

Photo caption: The parlor served as the keeper’s office and was where the family entertained guests. Above the mantel is a shell picture made by María Israel. She often sold them for extra income.

Source: Copyright by Cliff Dickey


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Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106-3601

Phone number:
(619) 523-4285

Fax number
(619) 226-6311

Additional links: National Park Foundation Join the park community.

Last updated: June 29, 2022

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1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106


619 523-4285

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