Piedras Blancas Light Station

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Piedras Blancas Light Station
Piedras Blancas Light Station 2012.jpeg
Piedras Blancas Light Station
Piedras Blancas Light Station is located in California
Piedras Blancas Light Station
LocationPoint Piedras Blancas
San Simeon
United States
Coordinates35°39′56.3″N 121°17′03.6″W / 35.665639°N 121.284333°W / 35.665639; -121.284333Coordinates: 35°39′56.3″N 121°17′03.6″W / 35.665639°N 121.284333°W / 35.665639; -121.284333
Year first constructed1875
Foundationmasonry basement
Constructionbrick tower
Tower shapeconical tower
Markings / patternwhite tower, black trim
Tower height70 feet (21 m)
Focal height142 feet (43 m)
Original lensFirst order Fresnel lens made by Henri Lapaute
Current lensVRB-25
Range21 nautical mile Edit this on Wikidata
CharacteristicFl W 10s.
Admiralty numberG3982
ARLHS numberUSA-598
USCG number6-0265 [1][2][3]
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
Piedras Blancas Light Station
Nearest citySan Simeon, California
Area20 acres (8.1 ha)
Architectural styleClassical Revival, Gothic, Romanesque
MPSLight Stations of California MPS
NRHP reference No.91001095 [4]
Added to NRHPSeptember 03, 1991

Piedras Blancas Light Station is located at Point Piedras Blancas, about 5.5 miles (8.9 km) west by northwest of San Simeon, California.[5] It was added to the California Coastal National Monument in 2017.[6]

History and management[edit]

Piedras Blancas lighthouse (circa 1930) prior to removal of upper three levels.

The first-order Fresnel lens at Piedras Blancas was first illuminated on February 15, 1875.[7] The Piedras Blancas lighthouse was originally 100 feet (30 m) high to the top of the ventilator ball, but earthquakes damaged the structure over the years. On December 31, 1948, final damage from an earthquake centered 6 miles (9.7 km) off the point led to the decision to remove the upper three floors: the fourth landing, watch room, and lantern. Missing the ornate upper floors, the truncated lighthouse now stands about 70 feet (21 m) tall. The lens was moved and is on display in the nearby community of Cambria.[8]

A sound signal was added in 1906.

In 1939, management was transferred from the United States Lighthouse Service to the United States Coast Guard. In 1975, the light was automated, the sound signal removed, and the light station was unmanned. A group of biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received permission to establish a biological research station in 1977. In 2001, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assumed management of the site and was tasked to offer structured public access, allow site-specific research to continue, and restore the light station to its period of greatest historical significance (1875 to 1940). The Piedras Blancas Light Station Association is a non-profit partner of the BLM, helping to raise funds for restoration and maintenance.

The lighthouse continues to serve as an aid to navigation. A Vega VRB-25 produces a flash every 10 seconds. The light station is managed as a historic park and wildlife sanctuary.

The Piedras Blancas Light Station has been designated as an Outstanding Natural Area.[9]

In 2013, a replica 50 foot water tower was completed to hold public safety communications equipment.


Access to the 19-acre (7.7 ha) site is by guided tours, available every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (except federal holidays) year round. From June 15 through August 31, tours are offered Mondays through Saturdays (except federal holidays). The fee is $10 for adults; $5 for ages 6 to 17; and free for ages 5 and under. Special tours for parties of 10 or more may be arranged. The tour lasts two hours and includes the historic lighthouse and support buildings, wildlife viewing, and spectacular scenery along an easy half-mile interpretive trail.

Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery[edit]

The largest elephant seal rookery on the West Coast is located about a mile south of the lighthouse along California Highway One. A large parking area and boardwalk offer easy access to view the elephant seals. Docents from Friends of the Elephant Seal provide insight as to what the visitor is viewing. Open year-round.

Marine protected areas[edit]

Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve and Marine Conservation Area are marine protected areas offshore from Piedras Blancas Light Station. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.[10][11]

In popular culture[edit]

The 1959 movie The Monster of Piedras Blancas was not shot at Point Piedras Blancas, which is north of San Simeon on the California coast. The lighthouse locations in the movie were filmed at the Point Conception Light lighthouse near Lompoc, and the movie's "town" is actually the seaside town of Cayucos, about 30 miles south of Piedras Blancas.


Panoramic view from the top of the lighthouse, 2019. The lighthouse lost its original top in a major earthquake in 1948.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Light List, Volume VI, Pacific Coast and Pacific Islands (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2013. p. 3.
  2. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: California". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01.
  3. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Central and Southern California". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  5. ^ NOAA chart #18700: Point Conception to Point Sur, 1/216116, 2003
  6. ^ Obama adds six sites to California Coastal National Monument LA Times, Jan 12, 2017
  7. ^ "Historical Mements: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse". Cambria Historical Society. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Cambria Historical Society: Historical notes". Archived from the original on April 18, 2009. Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Lens
  9. ^ The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (Pub.L. 110–229, 122 Stat. 754-876, enacted May 8, 2008)
  10. ^ Strickland, Tonya (September 18, 2015). "Bill would add Piedras Blancas Light Station to California Coastal National Monument". The Tribune (San Luis Obispo).
  11. ^ Clark, Samantha (September 18, 2015). "Bill would include Coast Dairies in California Coastal National Monument". Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Further reading[edit]

  • Point Piedras Blancas, by Carole Adams & John Bogacki. 2008, Arcadia "Images of America" series. ISBN 978-0738558196

External links[edit]