Saturday, July 24, 2021

Pacific Coast Lighthouse Facts by Zina Abbott


This topic is quite a departure from my usual western adventures on the Great Plains or Rocky Mountains. This month, I am finishing up my book that is part of the Keepers of the Light series—a romance involving a  lighthouse. However, if we think about it, as much as people traveled to the West on wagon trains and railroads, there were many thousands who came by water.

Just as decades before the creation of the United States of America those who lived along the eastern coast recognized the need for lighthouses to warn ships from dangerous stretches of shoreline, the same held true on the Pacific coast. I was raised in California. I spent many weekends of my youth at beaches in San Diego and Orange Counties. I’m aware that, between the stretches of sandy beaches, there are large sections of rough, rocky shore—rock formations that often extend out into the ocean.

An example is the coastline near Crescent City, California, close to where the hypothetical town of Windward Cove in my book is set. Although Crescent City has a nice bay, not far away is some pretty rugged seascape.

Here are some lighthouse facts for the Pacific Coast. I am featuring only the earliest lighthouses built. Since I’m a California girl who spent my earliest years in San Diego County, I will start there and work my way north:

1855 – Old Point Loma at San Diego Bay had a steady light and no foghorn. It was replaced by a newer lighthouse in 1891

1874 Point Fermin Light in San Pedro, California (close to Los Angeles) opened with two women keepers. The U.S. Lighthouse Board was one of the few federal government departments in the 1800s that was open to women.

1855 Point Pinos Light in Pacific Grove, California – The first keeper died and his wife with 4 children carried on. It is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States.

1869 Santa Cruz Light, California – It was one of the California coastal lights allocated funding by Congress in 1850, only 19 days after California statehood. However, because of disputes over ownership of the land, construction did not proceed until 1868. The lightkeeper’s daughter succeeded her father as keeper.

1855 Point Bonita, California – It is located at Point Bonita at the San Francisco Bay entrance in the Marin Headlands near Sausalito, California. It had a fog cannon that fired every thirty minutes. A string bell replaced the cannon. It was the last manned lighthouse on the California coast.

1854 Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California – It was the first lighthouse placed into operation on the Pacific coast. Built on an island in the San Francisco Bay, the island later became better known for the prison built there.

1856 Crescent City, California – Known as the Battery Point Light, this the most northerly of California’s lighthouses. It had a 45 foot stone house with a brick tower. It was located on a high tide island that was connected to mainland at low tide.

1866 Cape Arago Light, Oregon – This lighthouse was built in response to Coos Bay becoming a major shipping point on the Oregon coast. The island on which it was built was plagued by erosion issues. The lighthouse has been replaced twice.

Built in 1855 and lit in 1857 – Umpqua River Light – It was built next to the river.


1871  Yaquina Bay Light – This was built soon after the founding of the city of Newport, Oregon, on the north side of Yaquina Bay, which, at the time, was the busiest and most populated coastal port between Washington and California.

1856 Cape Disappointment Light - This was the first lighthouse built in the Pacific Northwest near the mouth of the Columbia River in Washington Territory.

1857 Cape Flattery Light – On Tatoosh Island, it is also known by this name. It is built within the Makah Indian Reservation near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

There are numerous lighthouses along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the center of which serves as the boundary between the State of Washington and Canada. Below are a few of the older ones:

1861 Admiralty Head Light – it overlooks the Admiralty Inlet

1865 Ediz Hook Light – Built on a three mile long sandbar in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles Air Station is now nearby. Private operators built fires near the tip of the spit starting in 1861.

1857 New Dungeness Light - this was the second lighthouse established in Washington Territory

1858 Smith Island Light

1858 Willapa Bay Light – This was originally known as the Shoalwater Bay Light.

My book, Lighthouse Escape, is Book 13 in the Keepers of the Light series. It currently on preorder. To read the book description and find the purchase link, please CLICK HERE.


Julie Lence said...

Hi Zina: I never really thought about lighthouses along the pacific. I think it's because one doesn't often think of them when thinking of the Pacific Coastline. The structure and architecture from the mid 1800's one some of these is gorgeous. My favorite is Point Fermin Light. Thank you for sharing.

Krystal said...

I like that Point Bonita. Maybe I'll have to plan a trip there one day. :)
Thanks for sharing.