The extremely high winds and dense fog that descend from the Gulf of Farallones onto Point Reyes, California, necessitated a need for a lighthouse. As such, the Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870.
The beacon spends the majority of the year wrapped in a thick cloak of fog. The stark imagery of the lighthouse on the edge of a rocky cliff surrounded by murk and great waves crashing around it has inspired artists.
The poet Weldon Kees was so moved by the Point Reyes Lighthouse that he wrote the poem “The Exposed Reef.” The poem recounts the harrowing experience of a sailor being swept away by raging waters and crashing onto the jagged rocks at the base of the lighthouse. In 1954, Kees would return to Point Reyes to collaborate with the filmmaker William Heick to make a documentary on the lighthouse.
Most people today will recognize the Point Reyes Lighthouse from the cult horror film The Fog, directed by John Carpenter. In the film, Adrienne Barbeau portrays a disc jockey whose radio show broadcasts from the lighthouse. She uses her show to warn the townspeople of a supernatural fog carrying with it a crew of undead pirates.
The area where the Point Reyes Lighthouse is located is now a national park. The Lighthouse Visitor Center has exhibits on maritime history as well as information on the native sea life. Weather permitting, park visitors can walk the 300 plus steps down to the lighthouse and enter inside to view the lens and gear works.
Update as of April 2020: The lighthouse and its first-order Fresnel lens and clockworks were recently restored and re-opened.
Know Before You Go
Point Reyes Lighthouse is located in Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California. It's best to check on weather reports before attempting to visit since the lighthouse is closed to visitors during inclement weather.