Point Sur Light Station, Big Sur

Point Sur Light Station, Big Sur

by | Dec 13, 2018

Point Sur Light Station is on the Point Sur headland, a dramatic volcanic rock just off-shore in Big Sur, 135 miles (217 km) south of San Francisco, and 20 miles (32 km) south of Monterey, California. It was established in 1889 at the head of the point at an elevation of 270 feet (82 m) above sea level.

Point Sur is 361 feet (110 m) high and visible at sea for 10 miles (16 km). The low land connecting the rock to the mainland is known technically as a tombolo, and in the past, water has swept completely around the rock, cutting it off from the mainland. Early navigators took note of the prominent rock, with Juan Cabrillo calling it a “moro” rock in 1542, and Sebastian Viscaino labeling it a “point which appears as an island” on his 1603 map. In 1793, the British explorer Captain George Vancouver described Point Sur as a small, high, rocky lump of land nearly half a mile from the shore. The name “El Sur” (meaning “The South”) was first applied to a Mexican Land Grant named Rancho El Sur given by Governor José Figueroa to Juan Bautista Alvarado on July 30, 1834. The U.S. Coast Survey named the rock Point Sur in 1851.

Point Sur has been a hazard to ships since California was first settled, and increased shipping traffic during the California Gold Rush resulted in many wrecks. In 1886, 25 men were employed to construct a lighthouse and adjacent buildings on the point. They first built a road from the mainland to the rock, blasted a trail to the top, then quarried stone and built a tramway from the shore to the peak. The light station was completed on August 1, 1889. The light station was very isolated, connected to Monterey by a long and often dangerous road. The lightkeepers received goods and bulk supplies by boat roughly every four months, but to get them ashore, the supplies were transferred to skiffs and floated to land in barrels. Highway 1 was completed in 1937, connecting Big Sur with Monterey to the north and San Luis Obispo to the south. The light was fully automated in 1972. Read more here and here. Explore more of Point Sur here:

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