Raging Winds, Fog, and Treacherous Rocks… 3 Reasons for the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse

“Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.” From the Pt. Reyes National Seashore website.

It was hard to imagine frequent winds of 60 MPH that have been clocked as high as 133 MPH and weeks on end of pea-soup fog the day we visited the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse in March.

For as much as I enjoy Pt. Reyes National Seashore, I studiously avoid it in the summer. One reason is the fog. That’s true for much of the Pacific Coast. The other is tourists, gazillions of them. Traffic slows to a turtle’s pace along Highway 1, campgrounds are full, and popular sites such as the lighthouse are packed. I have a limited sense of humor about any of the above, especially given that I can visit during the late fall, winter, and early spring when few tourists are out and about and days are often crystal clear. Or, if I am particularly lucky, a raging storm will send huge waves crashing ashore producing spectacular views. I love both.

It was mainly sunshine when Peggy and I visited the National Seashore in early March to celebrate my birthday. The lighthouse was closed due to Covid, but I have visited it before. This time, we admired it from above.

The Lighthouse was built in 1870 to help counter the frequent shipwrecks that took place in the area. A steam driven fog horn was used when the fog was too thick to see the light.

The lighthouse served its purpose for over 100 years, finally shutting down in 1975 when the US Coast Guard replaced it with an automated light found just below the historic lighthouse. Up until then it was tended by a lighthouse keeper whose responsibility was to keep the light burning. In addition to warning mariners off of the treacherous rocks, the lighthouse served as a navigational aid. Each lighthouse along the coast has a different frequency of light that ship pilots recognize. At Pt. Reyes, the light flashed once every five seconds.

Looking out to sea.
A historic view of the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse from the National Archives.

Peggy and I parked Quivera and followed the trail that led out to the lighthouse. Along the way, we found trees that showed the effects of the high winds that frequent the headlands.

Wind sculptured trees
I pictured children having a blast climbing over the gnarled limbs on the trees.
The Pt. Reyes headlands are a great place for whale watching when they are migrating south toward Mexico and then north toward the Arctic. We didn’t see any, but we were greeted by this large mural as we neared the lighthouse.
We found this interesting rock perched above the lighthouse.
And looking down below the lighthouse, we watched these waves crashing ashore among the rocks— which is where I will conclude my post for today.

NEXT FRIDAY’S TRAVEL BLOG: I’ll wrap up my Pt. Reyes series with a pleasant walk out to Abbot’s Lagoon and a visit to the colorful town of Pt. Reyes Station.

24 thoughts on “Raging Winds, Fog, and Treacherous Rocks… 3 Reasons for the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse

    • Thanks, Juliann. There are no guarantees with coastal weather, but my luck has tended to be best in late winter. I also experienced some great weather on the Oregon Coast in fall this past year. –Curt

  1. I love lighthouses and the history behind each of them. I can understand why summer would be a time to avoid the area. Thick with fog and tourists is never fun.
    Love that photo of the wind effect on the trees.

  2. It’s always fun to have your view of a place that I know. Pt. Reyes is a wonder — especially when the tourists are gone. It’s much the same here. I never head to Galveston in summer, especially on the weekends, unless I go very early in the morning and head for the far west end — away from the bars and the crowds. Winter is a perfect time for a visit, although we never have views like these. I especially like the last photo, with the whipped-cream-like water.

    • My brother operated a motel on Galveston for a while and I would stop by to visit. Then one of the cartels started running drugs out of the motel. Marshal called in the police and one of his friends told him to get out of town post haste, that he was marked for elimination. Marsh was packed and out of there in an hour. And he had really like Galveston. –Curt

      • That doesn’t surprise me. The Maceo family held on to the island with all of its ‘entertainments’ for decades, and they still were in control when Marshal was there (or so I presume). Of course, the cartels were putting pressure on the old-line crime families; things got complicated. One of the great ironies of Island life was that Vic Maceo eventually became head of the Beach Patrol, which is a law enforcement agency. He did a good job, too, and retired not so very long ago.

        Gambling, prostitution, rum-running — those were the good old days! In Seabrook, which is part of my stomping grounds, there used to be a dive bar called Maribelle’s. It sat next to the water, and you couldn’t miss the shocking pink exterior. One memorable evening (I was in town, but not at the bar) they found a local pol dead in the restroom: shot, as a matter of fact. Every year there was a Miss Wharf Rat contest there. Remember Dirty Dale, who came back from the dead? He was a judge for a few years.

      • “that Vic Maceo eventually became head of the Beach Patrol” It sounds a bit like the old movie “It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief.”
        Seems you know quit a lot about it all, Linda. Hmmmm? Pretty sure it all had to do with your interest in Texas history, not to mention local flora and fauna. 🙂 Right?

  3. Yep! We are in total agreement. Summertime is when we hunker down and work on the house. That North wind can simply be nasty (anyone for a face peel?) It took me a few years to figure out the best seasons out here. Even some of the wild winter storms can be exhilarating. 🌊

  4. And we were those same tourists trying to see the lighthouse in the fog. Didn’t happen. We even climbed down the stairs to the sea — in the fog. So, to this day, I can say we got there but didn’t really SEE Pt. Reyes!

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