Mendonoma: Caspar-Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Coastal Walk

Monday, July 20, 2015

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Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park occupies a spectacular headland extending out into the Pacific.

Although Point Cabrillo was surveyed by the U. S. Lighthouse Service in 1873, construction of the Light Station didn’t begin until 1908. The demand for lumber meant that maritime commerce on the north coast was at an all time high and a lighthouse was critical to the safety of the ships and their valuable cargo. The lens was illuminated for the first time on June 10,1909, under head keeper Wilhelm Baumgartner.

Built and managed by the US. Lighthouse Service under the Department of Commerce the original Point Cabrillo Light Station consisted of most of the buildings still standing today: the three keepers’ residences, the storage buildings (two of which are rental cottages, the third houses bathrooms), the Blacksmith & Carpentry Shop (now home to the Marine Science Exhibit), and the Oil House. (http://pointcabrillo.org/)

There is a parking area inside the gate off Point Cabrillo Drive, adjacent to the restored Kearn farmhouse.

Enjoy the half mile downhill walk to the Light Station buildings. There are two paths to the Station. The dirt path begins at the north end of the parking lot and takes you through the introduced grassland and coastal prairie. The paved access road to the south is an easier walk.

The paved Lighthouse Rd takes you pass the three restored Lightkeeper homes; the first house is a period museum of a lightkeeper’s house in the 1930s; the other two houses are comfortable vacation rental homes.

The restored Blacksmith & Carpentry Shop and other outbuilding.

Views of the Pt Cabrillo Lighthouse from various angles:

The Lantern Room at the top of the Tower houses a 3rd order British-built Fresnel lens by Chance Bros. with a range of 13-15 miles. The lens was originally powered by a kerosene oil lamp. There are only two other British-built lighthouse lenses in operation in the U.S. today: a 1st order lens at Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon and a 2nd order rear range light at Ambrose Channel, Staten Island, New York.

Originally the lens rotated by means of a clockworks mechanism with a descending weight. A chain with a 65-80 pound weight on the end of it passed through the floor of each level of the Light Tower. The lightkeeper would crank up the chain onto a drum every 2 hours. At some point, a portion of the floor and concrete foundation on the ground floor was removed to add an additional 4-5 feet to the chain, gaining (perhaps) an additional ten minutes between windings. The kerosene fueled wicks were replaced with a bulb hung into the lens when electricity was introduced to the Light Station in 1935. In 1937 the clockworks was replaced with an electric motor.

The four-sided bullseye lens rotates at a fixed speed to produce a flash at ten second intervals. The rotation pattern of a lighthouse is printed on the nautical chart; it is the lighthouse signature and must not vary.(http://pointcabrillo.org/learn/history/lshistory/)

Lighthouse Museum:

Take a leisurely stroll around the gorgeous bluff along the north trail:

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Walk along the south trail:

Enjoy the phenomenal coastal views!

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Lighthouse from afar:

Return on Lighthouse Rd to the parking lot.

The Light Station is located on the Mendocino Coast, between Mendocino village and Fort Bragg, about halfway between Russian Gulch State Park and Caspar Beach, on Point Cabrillo Drive.

Parking: The Light Station is approximately one half mile walk from the entry gate on Point Cabrillo Drive. Please park vehicles in the paved parking area at the gate. The parking area is open from sunrise to sunset daily. Handicapped access parking is available at the Light Station in front of the residences.The fully restored  lighthouse is open 365 days a year from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The preserve grounds are open for pedestrian use from sunrise to sunset daily. (http://pointcabrillo.org/visit/find-us/)

Explore this marvelous spot. There may be harbor seals resting on offshore rocks as well as sea lions swimming by. A variety of birds may fly overhead, perch in trees or be seen on the rocks. Search the sea for telltale plumes of condensed breath rising into the air which will tell you that whales are present. Gray whales are most common and easy to see from shore from December into April. Blue and humpback whales are random visitors in the summer and fall. Dolphins and porpoises of many species visit sporadically year round. (http://pointcabrillo.org/visit/explore/)

This tour and scenic walk around Pt Cabrillo Lighthouse is the last of our Mendonoma Coastal Adventures-it’s a beautiful place to cap off the morning before making the drive back home!

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