History & Culture

A black and white photo of several wooden structures adjacent to an ocean beach on the right with rugged headlands rising in the distance.
The U.S. Life-Saving Service station on the Point Reyes Beach. ca. 1914.

The cultural history of Point Reyes reaches back some 5,000 years to the Coast Miwok Indians who were the first human inhabitants of the Peninsula. Over 120 known village sites exist within the park. According to many experts, Francis Drake landed here in 1579, the first European explorer to do so. In response to the many shipwrecks in the treacherous coastal waters, key lighthouse and lifesaving stations were established by the United States Government in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the early 1800s, Mexican land grantees established ranchos. They were followed by a wave of American agricultural operations, which continue to this day in the Seashore's pastoral zone. By 1914, Guglielmo Marconi sited and commissioned the building of a wireless telegraphy stations in the Point Reyes area, which played an important role in maritime communications for ships on the Pacific Ocean through the late 1900s.

Visitors to Point Reyes are often curious about how their favorite beaches, trails, or places got their names. If you are one of those visitors—or even if you don't get the opportunity to visit but you are interested in learning more about the park's history—our Place Names page was created for you.

Learn more about the People, Places, Historic Landscapes, Historic Structures, and Archeology at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Point Reyes National Seashore museum collection currently holds over forty oral history interviews compiled by the park historian between 1985–1994.

The Point Reyes National Seashore Museum holdings include natural history specimens, archeological collections, historic objects, and archives.

Loading results...

    Last updated: February 23, 2024

    Park footer

    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    1 Bear Valley Road
    Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


    This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (e.g., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; fire danger information; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

    Contact Us