California Travel Tips

Pier Pilings

Published on: February 02, 2012

Have you ever taken the time to wander under a pier when visiting some beach destination? Pictured is a typical  California pier. There are over 20 wooden pleasure piers for the public to enjoy in California.

When you wander on a pier, you see great vistas, restaurants, people sitting, kissing, and often fishing. Underneath the pier it’s a whole different world! Under the pier, you see its structure and can tell what kind of pilings are holding it in place.  Sometimes they are wooden, rusty and crusty or the piling can be made of concrete. There are quite a few old, wooden piers still standing in California that serve visitors and locals as pleasure piers. When the time comes to replace the pilings, it’s always a challenge finding financing, as the expense isn’t one that cities ordinarily keep in their budgets, since a pier may last up to 100 years! Wooden piers generally cost less to build than concrete piers and replacement of a few pilings can stretch the life of such piers.

What is a pier exactly?  In general, it is a is a raised platform extending from a shore over water and supported by piles or pillars. Piers usually allow tides and currents to flow almost unhindered, whereas more solid foundations of closely spaced piles of a wharf can act as a breakwater. Wharfs are more liable to silting.

Piers can range in size and complexity from a simple lightweight wooden structure to major structures extended over a mile out to sea. California does not have any public pleasure piers or wharfs that big. The largest public structure that goes from the shore into the Pacific Ocean is Santa Cruz Wharf. At  2,745 feet in length, the Santa Cruz Wharf  (built in 1914) is  over half a mile long, and ranks as the longest wooden pier in California.

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