Walton Lighthouse is situated on the west jetty at the entrance to the Santa Cruz harbor adjacent to Seabright State Beach, about 25 miles (40 km) north-northwest of Monterey and in the city of Santa Cruz, California. The lighthouse is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of the Santa Cruz Light at Point Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz coast was first surveyed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a possible harbor in 1879. In 1949, Santa Cruz was resurveyed and several sites were evaluated for a harbor including Neary Lagoon, Woods Lagoon, and Schwan Lagoon. Woods Lagoon was eventually selected even though it had no natural features to shelter a harbor entrance and the close proximity to the mouth of the San Lorenzo River would involve considerable dredging. Between 1958 and 1960, the State Department of Parks and Recreation began acquiring land for the harbor. In 1962, U.S. Congress appropriated $1.6 million for jetty construction and the dredging of Woods Lagoon for the original south harbor basin. Construction began on the south harbor in 1962, with the facility being completed in 1964 with 360 boat slips. In 1973, the basin was lengthened for an additional 455 slips.
The entrance to the harbor is protected by jetties comprising tetrapods, and a lighted navigational aid consisting of a box structure was located on the west jetty from 1964 to 1996. In 1996, it was replaced by a cylindrical structure, and in 1998 a simple standpipe held the light. The Santa Cruz community proposed a more elegant structure and with a major donation from Charles A. Walton of Los Gatos, a new lighthouse was designed by Mark Mesiti-Miller and constructed by Devcon Construction, Inc. Construction began with a cylindrical inner core that houses electrical equipment and a circular staircase of 42 steps that lead to the top of the lighthouse. Surrounding the inner core is a matrix of reinforcement rods supporting the concrete tower that has a wall thickness of 4.5 feet (1.4 m) at the base. The lantern room is capped with a copper roof. The lighthouse was dedicated in 2002 and named the Walton Lighthouse in honor of Derek Walton who served in the Merchant Marine and reputedly died of polio in the early 1950s. The structure is 41.5 feet (12.6 m) tall and a green light flashes every four seconds at a focal plane of 36 feet (11 m). The structure weighs 350,000 pounds (158,757 kg) and was built to withstand significant wave energy.
On March 11, 2011, the magnitude 9.0 Tōhoku Earthquake generated a tsunami that caused damage around the Pacific basin. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for the coastal areas in most of California, all of Oregon, and parts of Alaska. In California and Oregon, waves reached 7.9 feet (2.4 m) high. In California, damage occurred from the strong currents created as the waves surged in and out of enclosed areas such as ports and harbors. Areas that regularly experience 5 feet (1.5 m) of tidal rise and fall over about a 12-hour cycle were not able to handle the same change in water level over about 20 minutes. This rapid rise and fall of water in harbor areas created localized eddies and high-velocity currents that scoured around piles and coastal structures and put large forces on boats and floating docks. Damage in the Santa Cruz harbor included docks and boat slips, 13 boats were reportedly sunk and approximately 100 more were damaged. See a short video here. Read more here and here. Explore more of Walton Light and Santa Cruz Harbor here: