San Diego, CA
Piedras Blancas Historic Light Station - Outstanding Natural Area Central California
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© CT-Graphics - Christine Till
The 18-acre Piedras Blancas Light Station sits on the coastal side of California scenic route 1 (California Coastal Highway) near Hearst Castle halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is an active lighthouse which began continuous operation in 1875 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Piedras Blancas, which means 'white rocks', played a role in local maritime history long before the building of the Piedras Blancas light station. Before the lighthouse was built at Point Piedras Blancas a lookout from the San Simeon Whaling Station was posted on the property during the southbound migration of the California gray whale. When a whale was sighted the lookout signaled the whalers, who then hunted their prey from 30 foot long whaling boats.
The first-order Fresnel lens in the 115-foot Piedras Blancas Lighthouse tower was first illuminated on February 15, 1875. In 1949 a fierce storm damaged the lantern room, and the lens. Lantern room, ornate railing, and the beautiful sculpted upper portion of the tower had to be removed - the height of the lighthouse was reduced to 74 feet. A rotating aero beacon was placed atop the shortened tower, and the lightstation returned to service.
In 1975 the tower was automated and the light station unmanned. The new VRB-25 beacon, installed in 2006, uses only a very small 12 volt halogen light, but the light can be seen up to 21 miles.
March 15th, 2011
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