MPA Mondays: Point Sur Lightstation

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The Point Sur Lightstation turned 125 on August 1! Throughout its long history, the lightstation—located just 40 minutes south of Carmel—has kept ships from crashing into the rocky shoreline. And since September 2007, it has also marked the northernmost boundary of the Point Sur State Marine Reserve and the Point Sur State Marine Conservation Area.

point sur lightstationThe reserve and conservation area are two of the 29 marine protected areas located along the Central Coast. Both MPAs contain a wide diversity of habitats that support a range of fish, seabird and invertebrate species. The area encompasses a large kelp bed which provides a shelter and nursery habitat to rockfish and other species. In the Point Sur State Marine Conservation Area, commercial and recreational take of salmon and albacore tuna is allowed. However, fishing and take of all living marine resources is prohibited.

pointsur.lThe lightstation keys were turned over to the first keeper on Aug. 1, 1889. He and three assistants staffed the lighthouse and fog signal 24 hours a day. The four keepers and their families lived an isolated life. The trail to Monterey was long and treacherous, so trips were rare. The U.S. Lighthouse Service provided a horse and wagon to get mail and supplies from Pfeiffer’s Resort (now Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park). Like most remote lightstations, Point Sur was very self-sufficient. As the years passed, life became increasingly less isolated at Point Sur, especially following the completion of Highway 1 in 1937.

In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for all aids-to-navigation.  Lighthouse Service employees were absorbed into the new program, and allowed to become either members of the U.S. Coast Guard or remain civil service employees.
Point Sur-CREDIT Pat HathawayIn the 1960s, the U.S. Coast Guard began automating lightstations in an effort to make more efficient use of their personnel. In 1974, the last keeper left Point Sur. Today a U.S. Coast Guard crew services the lighthouse regularly.

Until the 1970s, Point Sur also had a fog signal. The original signal was made by twin steam whistles. Steam was produced by a boiler which used wood for fuel. Over the years, the steam whistles were replaced by airhorns. The fog signal was used whenever fog reduced visibility to the degree that ships were in danger of hitting the rocks off shore.  Technological advances in navigational equipment and weather reporting eventually made the fog signal no longer necessary.

Light-house-Pico-Blanco-lrgOne of the factors influencing the funding for building the Point Sur Lightstation was the shipwrecks. Read all about them here.

Check out these aerial photographs of the Lightstation.

Planning a visit? Click here for tour and admission information.

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