Point Reyes: A Treacherous Obstacle to Mariners
Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light. They then transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which has taken on the job of preserving this fine specimen of our heritage.
All lighthouses in the United States are now automated because it is cheaper to let electronics do the work. Many decommissioned lighthouses were transformed into restaurants, inns, or museums. The lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore is now a museum piece, where the era of the lightkeepers' lives, the craftsmanship and the beauty of the lighthouse are actively preserved.
The Point Reyes Light First Shone in 1870.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse lens and mechanism were constructed in France in 1867. The clockwork mechanism, glass prisms and housing for the lighthouse were shipped on a steamer around the tip of South America to San Francisco. The parts from France and the parts for the cast iron tower were transferred to a second ship, which then sailed to a landing on Drakes Bay. The parts were loaded onto ox-drawn carts and hauled three miles over the headlands to near the tip of Point Reyes, 600 feet above sea level.