Point Cabrillo Light Station
State Historic Park
The mission of the California Department of
Parks and Recreation is to provide for the
health, inspiration and education of the
people of California by helping to preserve
the state’s extraordinary biological diversity,
protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
Point Cabrillo Light
Station has ensured
the safety of thousands
of ships traveling the
treacherous waters off
California State Parks supports equal access.
Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(707) 937-5804. This publication is available in
alternate formats by contacting:
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P. O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Discover the many states of California.TM
Point Cabrillo Light Station
State Historic Park
13800 Point Cabrillo Drive
Mendocino, CA 95460
© 2008 California State Parks
Printed on Recycled Paper
Northern harrier photo courtesy of Ron LeValley
P oint Cabrillo
occupy parts of
lands and have
Light Station State
Historic Park is
a living link to
featuring a beautifully
lighthouse and 11
The Wreck of
Family of lightkeeper Albert Scott, ca.1911
In 1850, the clipper
In a nearby cove rest
brig Frolic, on its
the remains of the Frolic, the most important
way to San Francisco with a cargo of Chinese
Gold Rush-era shipwreck in California.
housewares, struck a reef just north of what
Located four miles north of Mendocino,
later became Point Cabrillo. After securing
the park’s 296.5 acres of open space include
the wrecked ship in what is now called Frolic
an impressive variety of wildlife and hiking
Cove, the captain and some of the crew took
long boats to carry word of the wreck south
For thousands of years, the rich waters and
headlands around Point Cabrillo were the
summer hunting and gathering grounds of
the Pomo people. The Pomo moved here
from their inland encampments in early
summer to harvest abalone, mussels, seals
and sea lions, deer, kelp and salt. These
foods were carried to their permanent
villages and stored for the winter.
In the late 1850s, settlers and lumbermen
began using the lands for grazing and
harvesting timber for railroad ties. As the
influx of settlers increased, the Pomo way of
life was forever altered.
to Fort Ross. In 1851, Harry Meiggs, a San
Francisco lumber dealer, sent Jerome Ford
north in hopes of salvaging cargo. By then,
the ship had sunk, but not before the Pomo
had removed Chinese ginger jars, bolts of
silk, camphor, lacquered trunks, housewares
and other items. Ford found Pomo women
wearing splendid silk shawls, but there was
no cargo left to salvage.
Ford told his employer about the lack
of salvageable cargo, but noted that there
were groves of redwood and Douglas fir in
the area. A year later, Meiggs had sawmill
equipment shipped around Cape Horn and
erected a mill at Big River. This led to the
founding of Mendocino and the beginning of
the timber industry in Northern California.
Local mills supplied wood to help build San
Francisco and to construct the Point Cabrillo
The Light Station
The Point Cabrillo Light Station was built
following the 1906 earthquake, which had
ravaged San Francisco. The Light Station was
needed to guide small “Doghole” schooners
that plied the coastal waters, carrying lumber
to rebuild San Francisco. The earthquake
severely damaged the Point Arena
Lighthouse, leaving no lighthouses between
Cape Mendocino and Bodega Bay.
Construction of the Point Cabrillo Light
Station building began in 1908 and was
completed in early 1909. The Light Station,
comprising 30.5 acres and 15 structures, was
managed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service.
The Head Lightkeeper was in charge of the
Light Station, overseeing the work of the
First Assistant (the Wickie) and the Second
Assistant (the Timer). Daily tasks included
maintaining the Lighthouse lantern room,
lens, kerosene oil lamp, clockworks, the other
14 buildings and the raised garden beds
where food was grown. The U.S. Coast Guard
(USCG) assumed command of the Point
Cabrillo Light Station in 1939 and managed it
The British-built Fresnel (fra-nel) lens—the
most advanced example of lens technology
at the time—was first lit on June 10, 1909,
by Wilhelm Baumgartner, the first Head
Lightkeeper. The British-built lens, one of
only twelve in the U.S., was manufactured
by Chance Brothers and shipped around the
Horn. The lens has 90 glass prism pieces;
the original lens was turned by a wind-up
Volunteer with Fresnel lens today
The oil lamp and clockworks were
replaced by electric lamps and motors in
1934 and 1935, respectively. In 1972 an
automated beacon replaced the Fresnel
lens. Then, in 1999 the USCG allowed
relighting of the original Fresnel lens.
Today’s lens is powered by a 1000-watt lamp,
operational around the clock. On a clear
night, the 10-second flash can be seen 14 to
15 miles at sea.
Rehabilitation and Restoration
The California Coastal Conservancy
supported and funded the acquisition of
the property in 1991. They provided grants,
joined with private donations, to rehabilitate
the Lighthouse, its lens, the Blacksmith/
Carpenter Shop and Oil House.
California State Parks acquired the Light
Station and surrounding property in 2002.
Rehabilitation of three lightkeepers’ houses
and three other structures began in 2002.
Rehabilitation of the Lighthouse and the
grounds has been overseen by the nonprofit
Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association,
by agreement with State Parks. The Point
Cabrillo Restoration Project received the
2007 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award
and the California Preservation Foundation’s
Preservation Design Award.
With 12 of its original 15 buildings, Point
Cabrillo is one of the most complete Light
Stations in the U.S. Currently, four of its
buildings are open to visitors, and the Inn is
open to registered guests.
The Light Station sits on the second of five
coastal terraces that were pushed up from
the ocean floor by plate tectonics. Native
plants have adapted to high winds, drenching
winter rains, foggy summers and salt spray.
Native grasses are evident today, but
are usually covered by planted
European grasses. Look for
more than fifty species of
birds, including northern
kites, osprey, black oystercatchers and
cormorants. From the bluff tops, visitors may
see gray whales, orcas, humpbacks, dolphins,
seals, sea lions, and, rarely, a blue whale.
EVENTS AND PROGRAMS
The Light Station hosts an annual Whale
Festival in March, four summer Lantern Room
tours and guided site tours each Sunday.
Contact the park for details at (707) 937-6122.
Two parking lots near the Museum and Inn
are reserved for cars with disabled placards
or plates. The Visitor Center, Museum,
Blacksmith Shop/Marine Science Aquarium,
and the first floors of the Inn and the
Lighthouse are all accessible.
Water Safety—Stay back from the water’s
edge to avoid large rogue waves and strong
currents that can sweep people out to sea.
• All of the park’s natural, underwater
and cultural features are protected by
state law and may not be disturbed or
• Pets must be kept on a six-foot leash.
• Driving off designated roads is not
• Bicyclists must stay on paved trails.
• Fishing is not allowed within the park.
Nearby STATE PARKS
• Mendocino Headlands SP, 725 E. Main St.,
Mendocino, CA 95460 (707) 937-5804
• Russian Gulch SP, 9500 N. Highway One,
Mendocino CA 95460 (707) 937-5804
This park receives support in part from a
For more information, contact
Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association
PO Box 641, Mendocino, CA 95460
(707) 937-6122 www.pointcabrillo.org