Pillar Point Harbor

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Aerial view of Pillar Point Harbor. View is to the east.
Pillar Point (top) and Half Moon Bay, looking north, 2009

Pillar Point Harbor is a boat harbor created by a riprap jetty in San Mateo County, California immediately north of Half Moon Bay. The contemporary hamlet is the site of a small cluster of resort hotels and restaurants, and the harbor is now used largely by pleasure craft.

The site was originally inhabited by the Ohlone people in prehistoric times, and a number of recorded shipwrecks occurred in the immediate area. The harbor facilities are managed by the San Mateo County Harbor District. In the late-1980s a master plan was developed for the harbor.[1] The harbor is situated at the extreme north edge of the city of Half Moon Bay and at the southern edge of the unincorporated community of Princeton-by-the-Sea. Historically this area has simply been called Pillar Point.


Thousands of years ago, and through much of the 19th century, the site was used by the Ohlone tribe, especially in the riparian zone of El Granada Creek.[2] The National Register of Historic Places indicates an Ohlone archaeological site in this immediate area.[citation needed]

The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition, passed through the area on its way north, camping just south of the harbor on October 28, 1769.[3] In his expedition diary, missionary Juan Crespi described Pillar Point.

By the early 19th century Russian fur trappers plied this portion of the Northern California coast. In the 19th century a number of shipwrecks and other nautical accidents occurred in this area of the Pacific Ocean coastline. Most notable of the early shipwrecks was the wreck of the ship Rydall Hall in October 1876 recorded to have occurred near Pillar Point.

A Westsail 32 berthed at Pillar Point Harbor

The riprap breakwater protecting the harbor was constructed from 1956 to 1960.[4]

The San Mateo County Harbor District has maintained a Harbor Master's Office and rescue station there since 1970. For almost twenty years (1978- 1996) the Harbor Master, Robert McMahon and his various crews, achieved recognition from the Coast Guard for being the first responders and saving hundreds of lives.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Callander Associates, Pillar Point Harbor East Harbor Master Plan, December 21, 1988
  2. ^ Environmental Impact Report for the Pillar Point East Harbor Master Plan, Earth Metrics Inc., San Mateo County Harbor District, February 1989
  3. ^ Bolton, Herbert E. (1927). Fray Juan Crespi: Missionary Explorer on the Pacific Coast, 1769-1774. HathiTrust Digital Library. pp. 223–225. Retrieved July 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ US Army Corps of Engineers. "Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) 111 Project, Public Meeting 8 Nov. 2013 (presentation slides)" (PDF). Retrieved 18 August 2019.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°29′57.75″N 122°29′16.91″W / 37.4993750°N 122.4880306°W / 37.4993750; -122.4880306

Pillar Point Harbor