After taking a hiatus in 2009, the annual lighting of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse is back. Join thousands of visitors on November 13 to see the spectacular, original Fresnel lens light up the sky, as we celebrate the 138th anniversary of the lighthouse.
Instituted by Hostelling International more than a decade ago, the annual celebration is the hostel's most popular event, drawing 2,000 to 3,000 visitors to see the lens' 24 beams of light rotate slowly around the tower, piercing the night sky for miles. The California State Parks department acts as master of ceremonies, while the U.S. Coast Guard switches on the light. Local community and environmental organizations participate as well.
The day's festivities include:
- A Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel open house from noon to 5 p.m.
- Docent-led tours of the grounds (though the tower itself remains closed to visitors) starting at 10 a.m.
- Historic exhibits, lighthouse videos, puppet shows, and marine mammal and native plant displays in the fog signal building and at the point lookout deck from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
The celebration culminates from 6-8 p.m., when the light station's automated Aero beacon is switched off and the Coast Guard lights the original first-order Fresnel lens. During the first five minutes of lighting, the lens will not rotate so photographers can capture the most dramatic images of the lighthouse's beams.
Perched in a glass-enclosed room at the top the 115-foot structure, the lens itself is 16 feet tall, weighs four tons, and is fitted with 1,008 handcrafted brass-framed prisms and lenses. Designed by French physicist Augustine Jean Fresnel, it was the most powerful lens of the day when the lighthouse was outfitted in 1872. You can read more about the lens and the history of Pigeon Point here.
November 13, 2010 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Parking is extremely limited, so plan to arrive early and be sure to bring a flashlight for use after dark.
If You Go
Avoid post-celebration traffic by staying overnight at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel. Or stay the night before, to make sure you have a parking spot!