Although Point Cabrillo was surveyed by the U. S. Lighthouse Service in 1873, construction of the Light Station didn’t begin until after the 1906 earthquake. The demand for lumber to rebuild San Francisco meant that maritime commerce on the north coast was at an all time high and a Lighthouse was critical to the safety of the ships and their valuable cargo. Construction of the Light Station began in 1908, and the lens was illuminated for the first time on June 10,1909, under head keeper Wilhelm Baumgartner. His home, with four bedrooms and four bathrooms, is now available as a vacation rental. Also for rent is the 2nd Assistant Lightkeeper’s home and cottages at the rear. For more, click here.
In 1996 the Conservancy was awarded a federal grant through the ISTEA program (Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Activities) for the restoration of the lantern room and the creation of public service facilities at Point Cabrillo (parking and restrooms). Work on the project began in August of 1998 when the Fresnel lens was dismantled and removed from the lantern room. The lantern room restoration was completed in April 1999 and the Fresnel lens was refurbished and reinstated as the active aid in time for Point Cabrillo’s 90th Anniversary. The restoration of the Fresnel lens was funded by the NCIA with assistance from the Coast Guard. The restoration of the fog signal building was funded by the NCIA and the Coastal Conservancy. The restoration of the rest of the lighthouse tower and fog signal building was completed in August of 2001 with funds provided by the Coastal Conservancy and the NCIA.
A Short Walk
Head west on foot from the parking lot towards the recently-restored lighthouse (with the original Fresnel lens) and rugged headlands. You can take the trail on the north end of the parking lot, or walk down the paved road on the south end. Be aware that the trail gradually drops about 160 feet as you head west, so you will have to walk back up when you return to your car. The area is wheelchair-accessible, and you can drive down to the bottom with a handicapped placard.
Access: go 1½ miles north of Mendocino on Highway One, turn left at and then immediately right onto Pt Cabrillo Drive. Go 1.3 miles to the parking lot on the left. An alternate approach is to proceed north on Pt Cabrillo Drive another mile beyond the parking lot, and turn left on Caspar South Drive. Proceed for a half mile, and turn left on Vega Drive. Park at the end, and follow the trail into the Preserve. While this does reduce the elevation change by half, it is a bit marshy around this way. If you follow the path, it will take you directly to Frolic Cove, where the sinking of the Frolic led to the first lumber mill and settlements in the area.
Time & Distance: 1 ½ hours; 2 miles round trip.
For more history and information about the Light Station, visit their Web site.