The entrance way to the KPH Point Reyes Receiving Station. The Monterey cypress “tree tunnel” is a signature landscape feature that evokes some of the prestige that RCA placed in this profitable, historic operation.
Built in 1919, the receiving station is now used by the National Park Service as an office, but still houses Amateur Radio Station K6KPH. Over the years, the facility was owned by Marconi, RCA, GE, AT&T and MCI. Decommissioned in 1997, it is now an historical site within the Point Reyes National Seashore.
The Point Reyes peninsula is a well defined area, geologically separated from the rest of Marin County and almost all of the continental United States by a rift zone of the San Andreas Fault, about half of which is sunk below sea level and forms Tomales Bay.
Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay.
The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.
The lighthouse was also used as a location for the 1980 John Carpenter film The Fog.
It was built in 1870 and was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light. They then transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which has taken on the job of preserving it for future generations to enjoy.
Inside the Point Reyes lighthouse equipment room…
…which exhibits the two 1947 super typhoon foghorns, air compressors, and the backup power generator that were once used at Point Reyes.
Another building near the lighthouse.
There she is!
The lens in the Point Reyes Lighthouse is a “first order” Fresnel (fray-nel) lens, the largest size of Fresnel lens. The Fresnel lens intensifies the light by bending (or refracting) and magnifying the source light through crystal prisms into concentrated beams. The Point Reyes lens is divided into twenty-four vertical panels, which direct the light into twenty-four individual beams.
A counterweight and gears similar to those in a grandfather clock rotate the 6000-pound lens at a constant speed, one revolution every two minutes. This rotation makes the beams sweep over the ocean surface like the spokes of a wagon wheel, and creates the Point Reyes signature pattern of one flash every five seconds.
Each of the 308 steps you must climb after visiting the Point Reyes Lighthouse are numbered so you can count each one as you make your way back to your car.
It’s a grueling climb but well worth the effort to get a chance to visit the lighthouse.