California Lighthouses


Punta Gorda Lighthouse, California

Punta Gorda Lighthouse, Lost Coast, Humboldt County

Located 12 miles south of Cape Mendocino on the Lost Coast of Northern California, Punta Gorda Lighthouse was established in 1911. Isolated and lonely, the lighthouse was said to be the "Alcatraz" of lighthouses, a place where employees were stationed as a punishment for misconduct. The lighthouse in not in operation today and is under the auspices of the Bureau of Land Management. The nearest city is Petrolia.

Deactivated in 1951, the Fourth Order Bullseye lens was removed after serving a mere 39 years. At one time the light station had a Keepers Quarters. It was built in 1910 as a two story structure made of wood. Buildings were intentionally burned in 1970, possibly because the Bureau of Land Management decided it was too expensive to maintain. What remains today are a concrete oil house, original barn, fog signal building, storage shed, 3 Keepers, carpenter and blacksmith shop, stables, cisterns, and wooden above ground water storage tanks. The fog signal was replaced by a lighted whistle buoy offshore.

The tower height is 27 feet high and the structure foundation and tower were made of concrete and reinforced concrete. When a lens was installed in the lighthouse, its focal plane was at a height of 75 feet.

Punta Gorda lighthouse was built after the wreck of the Columbia 16 miles south claimed 87 lives in this rugged portion of the Northern California coast in 1907. One of the most popular ways of exploring the lighthouse and coast line is by taking a 25 mile trek on the California Coastal Trail. You can pay locals in Crescent City a fee to provide a one-way trip. Some take a ride to the end of the trail opposite Crescent City where they begin the hike. Others can park their cars at the remote point and get rides back to their cars when they arrive in town, usually taking two or three days to explore and camp along the way.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse is situated in the hills of the King Range National Conservation Area. Punta Gorda fog station actually began operating on June 22, 1888, though it didn't fully divert shipwrecks. Other shipwrecks included steamers St. Paul and Humboldt.

During Punta Gorda's span serving the coast with a beacon of rotating light, the assigned Keeper rode horseback into the village of Petrolia to carry back what fresh supplies he could. Flooded streams and fierce winds kept the area cut off from civilization during winters.

If you think that the Keepers felt this lighthouse was isolated, just try driving to it and you'll gain a sense of its remoteness. The public is allowed to look around. From Eureka, travel, 10 miles south on U.S. Highway 101 to the Ferndale exit. Proceed 5 miles on County Road 211 to Main Street in Ferndale. Follow Main Street approximately 1 mile to its end. Turn right on Ocean Street, then immediately left on Wildcat Road. Continue 45 miles to Petrolia. Turn right on Lighthouse Road and travel 5 miles to Mattole Campground. The Lost Coast Trail begins at the Mattole where there's an information kiosk. The hike to the lighthouse is approx. 3 -4 miles, leading through sand. It's very important to have a tide table. The Punta Gorda segment may be impassable at high tide.

Current use of the ligthhouse is as an historic site. The manager of the land is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. It is open to the public.

National Register Lists this property as Reference #76000483

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Near Petrolia