In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation that created the Point Reyes National Seashore. Fifty years later, Point Reyes is a beloved National Park that is visited by millions of people from all over the world. On Saturday, September 8, the park celebrates its 50th anniversary with a reception and oak-planting ceremony at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Point Reyes is one of the most ecologically and geographically diverse parks in the United States. At over 71,000 acres, the National Seashore includes coastal wetlands, forests, and beaches that are home to Tule elk, elephant seals, native flora and fauna, and various bird species. The past 50 years of protection and preservation have allowed this thriving natural environment to remain unaffected by the commercial developments of surrounding Marin County.
In addition to being a natural sanctuary, Point Reyes has a long human history. Kule Loklo -- a recreated village of the Coastal Miwok -- is a relic of the park's earliest human inhabitants, while names of bays and beaches (like Drake's Estero and Limantour Beach), reference European explorers and the second wave of human inhabitants in the park. The seashore itself was christened Punto de Los Reyes ("King's Point") by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in 1603.
In the late 19th century, as sea trade and coastal commerce replaced exploration and settlement, the Point Reyes Lighthouse was erected to help mariners navigate the rocky coast near San Francisco Bay. The 35-foot lighthouse flashed unique light patterns that shone through thick fog, preventing many shipwrecks until its retirement in 1975. Also in the 19th century, ranching became an important industry in Point Reyes, and dairy cows and cheesemaking are still part of the local economy and ecology. The Point Reyes Hostel, which is housed in converted ranch buildings, is emblematic of the park's ranching traditions.
Whether shrouded in fog or drenched in sunlight, Point Reyes is a jewel of the National Park system that has delighted visitors for 50 years with its rugged, beautiful landscapes and diverse native wildlife. To honor the park's past and inspire greater preservation efforts in the future, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association has established the Point Reyes Trails Trust, to raise funds to improve the park's trails and protect the wildlife habitats.