Stornetta Falls and the Missing Lighthouse
Friday, August 24th, 2007

Headlands and coastline with waterfall at Stornetta Ranch PreserveOur weather has been spectacular lately, and so Bruce and I decided to go check out the Stornetta Ranch Preserve near Point Arena yesterday. It’s a good thing, too, because the fog was back today. The Preserve was donated to the BLM only two years ago, and you can even still find the, uh, remnants of the dairy cattle along the way. It’s easy to get there, since it’s just a couple of miles north of the city of Point Arena. Turn off Highway One onto Lighthouse Road, and go west for 1.4 miles. As the road approaches the ocean, it veers around to the right. At this point, there’s a turnout on the left for the Preserve. Pass through the turnstile, and head off to the south. You’re about at the middle of the 1200-acre preserve when you enter it of Lighthouse Road. You’ll find coastal headlands with scrub pines, and a beautiful coastline with islands and sea stacks. The coastline is very interesting, too, with many patterns in the sandstone. (It’s less than ten miles to the geological oddities of Bowling Ball Beach.)

Island at Stornetta Ranch Preserve, with arch and black cormorantsThe big island just off the coast has a wonderful arch, and it’s covered with black cormorants. As you continue to the south, you’ll find wide rocky beaches that are perfect for abalone divers. We even passed by a sinkhole, about 30 feet across and 15 feet deep, set a hundred feet back from the edge of the cliff. We continued on to the south, because we had a goal in mind: the waterfall that drops into the ocean. The waterfall is at the south end of the preserve, next to the old Coast Guard LORAN station.

When you first pass through the turnstile, you can see the buildings off in the distance, about a mile away. This is an easy walk, since it’s flat the entire way except where you cross a small creek.

The waterfall comes from a simple year-round creek that drops about 25 feet into the water. When we stood at the top, it didn’t seem that high. Once I walked around to the opposite point, I could get a better sense of the size with Bruce there.

Bruce by the waterfall at Stornetta Ranch Preserve

After returning from the waterfall, we followed Lighthouse Road to the end — but the Point Arena Lighthouse was missing. I must have missed the demolition of the lighthouse in the newspaper, or maybe it was just the fog that draped the point (but nothing else around) obscuring it. It’s really a beautiful lighthouse, and it has a first-order Fresnel lens.

Since we couldn’t see anything, we headed back to Highway One, and went north a few more miles to Miner Hole Road. This dirt road leads out to the ocean, and there are trails leading over to Manchester Beach. The trail was marked Closed, so we left. This road runs along the big open field where the Arctic Tundra Swans hang out during their migration. I don’t know if you could see them any better here than from Highway One, but it’s possible. I’ll let you know when the swans return.

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