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Lighthouses Photographic Tour


Lighthouses - Photographic Tour

A brand new, original photo guide to the fascinating world of lighthouses from coast to coast, with beautiful color photography by Carol M. Highsmith, creator of the Photographic Tour and Pictorial Souvenir series.

In 1850 when the California Gold Rush was in full swing, California and the San Francisco Bay turned into a magnet for tall ships carrying merchandise and men ready to look for their fortunes in the in the California foothills. However the rugged California coastline can be unsafe for sailors, with concealed reefs and submerged rocks.

California beacons sprung up at the most perilous locations, both to safeguard life and to keep freight from destruction.

Beacons by night and symbols of strength, the beacons developed from single lights in the window of a homeowner to automated, autonomous structures on prominent peninsulas and sea cliffs.

Beacons were made to guard the mariners. They likewise acted as visual navigation aids. The vast majority of the beacon attendants were men, yet a few hardy ladies likewise took care of the lights. It was a tough life - so tough that the beacon guardian at Point Reyes once composed: "Better to dwell in the midst of alarms reign in this frightful place."

The light keeper kept busy maintaining the oil lights all through the night and day. When soggy haze filled the skies, they could be up all day and all night operating the manual rung warning bells. During treacherous evenings, beacon attendants were often awake throughout the night to ensure that their light guided voyagers securely.

Going to California Lighthouses

The nearly 300-year era of manned California beacons is currently over. Many light towers are automated and still being used today. Other beacons no longer active remain important, have been adopted by non-profit organizations resolved to spare them.

The Coast of northern California features many of the oldest established beacons in the state, while the coast of southern California offers additional fascinating beacon finds, each with a remarkable history and purpose.

Tall structures signal sailors over great distances away from shore, while low ones avoid haze and low visibility. A few beacons are newly painted in contrasting hues making them a unmistakable landmark. Others are weathered and blend in with the landscape, yet sparkle their lights brilliantly.

Just about thirty beacons are still standing proud on the coast of California. Sixteen of them are open to the general public

Alcatraz Lighthouse
Alcatraz Lighthouse
Alcatraz Lighthouse
Alcatraz Lighthouse
Alcatraz Lighthouse - Alcatraz Island turned out to be a tremendous deterrent in the bustling shipping channel of San Francisco Bay. To such an extent, that the U.S. Government allocated money to build a beacon on the island. The first tower was built in 1852, yet the third-order Fresnel lens didn't arrive until 1854. It was the first beacon to be constructed on the West Coast. The tower served until the 1906 earthquake when it was damaged beyond repair. Location: The lighthouse sits off shore on Alcatraz Island. The only way to get there is to by boat

Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse - The Crescent City harbor was booming amid the mid-1800s because of gigantic redwood trees. They were being cut and loaded onto ships to help build San Francisco. The local population effectively petitioned of the Government to construct a beacon on Battery Point. The beacon, a stone two-story cabin with a connected block tower through the center rooftop, was constructed at the tip of Battery Point on rocks sticking out into the Pacific ocean. Location: The lighthouse is located on a small island just outside Crescent City's Harbor.

East Brother Island Lighthouse
East Brother Island Lighthouse
East Brother Island Lighthouse - This beacon is located on an island in the north part of San Francisco Bay marking to San Pablo Bay entrance. The Government acknowledge the need for a beacon to mark the area, however couldn't reasonably acquire mainland property, so they turned build one on the island. Once the huge undertaking of leveling the island was completed, the crews were able to construct a two-story lighthouse with an attached tower and a fog signal building on the island. Location: East Brother Island in San Pablo Strait, two miles north of Interstate 580's Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Fort Point Lighthouse
Fort Point Lighthouse
Fort Point Lighthouse - The first lighthouse was constructed in 1853 and was waiting for its lens to arrive from Paris. Prior to the beacon ever being placed in service, it was demolished to build Fort Winfield Scott. While the fort was being built, a temporary light was installed outside the fort. This beacon lasted for around ten years before a huge storm undermined the sea wall. The beacon was agasin demolished to allow a greater seawall to be constructed. Location: Under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge in Fort Point National Historic Site.

Lime Point Lighthouse
Lime Point Lighthouse
Lime Point Lighthouse - This light is situated at the Northern base of the Golden Gate Bridge. From my research, read, there was at one time a lantern room and a residence, both were demolished at some point in the mid 1960s when it was automated. This photo was taken from an overlook right over the Golden Gate Bridge utilizing a 500mm zoom lens. As should be obvious, it has turned into a well known for seagull hangout. Location: At the foot of the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge and is hard to see up close.

Mile Rocks Lighthouse
Mile Rocks Lighthouse
Mile Rocks Beacon
Mile Rocks Beacon
This light is situated in the shipping lane located amid the Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. It was built there to mark the rocks sitting directly underneath it. The beacon was originally a lighthouse as seen in the postcard at the left. The light was subsequently shortened and a helicopter pad constructed on top. Location: On the south side of the entrance to San Francisco Bay west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

New Point Loma Lighthouse
New Point Loma Lighthouse
Because of the issues with the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (its focal plane that was much too high, this brought about visibility issues when sailors required it the most), a new tower constructed a lower point on the same bluff (around 88 feet above ocean level) and featured a 600,000 candlepower light which can be seen up to 15 miles at see. For those times when the fog rolls in, the station additionally includes a two-tone diaphone fog horn and a radio signal. The tower is still being used today. Location: In Cabrillo National Monument at the southern tip of Point Loma in San Diego.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Soon after the State of California was added to the Union, the Government began planning the lighting of the coastline. The first beacon was constructed in Southern California was the Old Point Loma beacon. It was constructed on a bluff leading into San Diego Bay.

The point seemed like an perfect spot. The tallness of the bluff combined with the stature of the tower gave the light a viable plane of 460 feet above sea level, the tallest in the US. This focal plane in the end prompted to the towers undoing. Many times amid severe climate, the tower could not be seen. Low hanging mists and mist regularly covered the light. Location: Entrance to San Diego Bay, Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma.


Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse - This lighthouse was named after a ship that ran aground close to the station...the ship's name was Carrier Pigeon. This beacon rises roughly 160 feet above ground, making it one of the tallest lighthouses on the Pacific Coastline. It is located around 50 miles to the south of San Francisco California Highway 1. The beacon sits on the grounds of a lodging. Location: 50 miles south of San Francisco and 26 miles north of Santa Cruz, next to Highway 1

Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse - The first beacon was constructed at Point Arena to caution of Point Arena Rocks which sit around 2.5 miles from shore. The first tower was 100' tall and the featured a solitary 2.5 story home. The keeper shared this home with three associate keepers and their families. This resulted in stressful circumstances at the lighthouse. Despite the fact that the managers appealed to the Government to include additional homes, the solicitations failed to receive any action.

On April 18, 1906, the Great San Francisco quake obliterated the entire lighthouse. The keepers along with their families lived in tents while the lighthouse was rebuilt. When the station was reconstructed, it included four structures as living arrangements. The tower was fifteen feet taller than the past one and was constructed of reinforced concrete to guarantee it would stand tall against another shake. Location: 45500 Lighthouse Road, one mile north of the city of Point Arena and 135 miles north of San Francisco.


Point Blunt Lighthouse
Point Blunt Lighthouse
Point Blunt Lighthouse - The first "beacon" on the island was not a beacon by any means – it was a manned fog bell installed on Point Knox, located on the southwest corner of the island. Amid times of fog the chime was struck by clockwork hardware using a weight as power which was rewound at regular intervals by an attendant. The bell had its own particular building, and the one attendant lived in a single story outline house next to the bell.

Point Bonita Lighthouse
Point Bonita Lighthouse
Point Bonita Lighthouse - The first beacon was constructed at Point Bonita in 1855 because of many wrecks in the area. One such ship, the Tennessee ended on the rocks and sunk. The un-salvagable ship and cargo was assessed to be worth $300,000 in 1851. The beacon stood 56' high on a 300' bluff, and featured a second-order Fresnel lens. Ordinarily this is something to be thankful for, however because of frequent fog, the light once in a while was invisible. The first fog signal at the location was a surplus cannon that the keeper fired whatever the fog rolled in. This was later replaced by a bell weighing almost a ton that keepers would strike with a mallet. This station would be utilized until 1877. Location: In the Marin Headlands, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Walton Lighthouse
Walton Lighthouse
Santa Clause Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse (Walton Lighthouse), is located in the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor. The beacon is known as Walton Lighthouse since Charles Walton, a local business owner, contributed a huge part of the development cost in memory Derek Walton his brother, who was a merchant seaman. The Walton beacon was constructed in 2001 using donations which included $60,000 from Charles Walton. The Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse is not the same as the Santa Cruz Light around 1.5 miles toward the west above Steamer Lane.

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Lighthouses: California

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California Lighthouses - Photographic Tour Reviewed by Gene Wright on . Rating: 5