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 Table Bluff, CA    
Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.
Description: The first lighthouse to mark Humboldt Bay was completed in 1856 under the contract granted for construction of the first eight west coast lighthouses.
Table Bluff Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
A site for the tower was selected on the sandy northern spit near the entrance to the bay where it could serve as both a coastal light and a harbor light. Soon, however, the Lighthouse Board realized that the area was prone to flooding and was often obscured by fog. In 1867, the Board recommended that the light be relocated to 165-foot-high Table Bluff, four miles south of the bay’s entrance. From that prominence, the light would be able to serve mariners entering both Humboldt Bay and Eel River, located just south of the bluff.

Funds were not appropriated for the new station on Table Bluff until 1891, even though the Humboldt Harbor Lighthouse was deemed uninhabitable in 1885 after the structure had been jolted by a pair of earthquakes and flooded by an extraordinary high tide. When money was finally allocated “the owner of the selected land refused to sell for less than $5,000 for about ten acres of land and the right of way for a road from a county road to the proposed station.” The price was deemed exorbitant and condemnation proceedings were initiated. The following year, however, the owner capitulated and agreed to sell the tract for $2,226.

The station was patterned after the one built in 1890 at San Luis Obispo and consisted of a square tower attached to an ornate Victorian dwelling, a fog signal building, and an assistant keeper’s duplex all lined up along the edge of the bluff. Behind the main buildings stood an oil house and a carpenter shop.

On October 31, 1892, the fixed, fourth-order Fresnel lens was removed from the Humboldt Harbor Lighthouse and installed in the tower at Table Bluff, where it was activated by keeper Tony Schmoll that evening. The Fresnel lens was replaced with a revolving one in 1911, thus changing the station’s characteristic from fixed-white to flashing-white.

The station was originally known as the Humboldt Bay Light Station, but this name was considered too similar to the former Humboldt Harbor Light Station leading to the eventual adoption of the name Table Bluff Light Station.

Table Bluff Lighthouse without dwelling
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Stephen Pozanac was transferred with his wife from Ano Nuevo to Table Bluff in 1922. Pozanac had become acquainted with the lighthouse keepers at Point Bonita when he was stationed at Fort Barry in Marin County during World War I and was so impressed with the lifestyle that he decided to become a keeper after the war. While on a ferryboat in San Francisco, Pozanac met his future wife Minie Diflivson, daughter of Peter Diflivson, keeper of Lime Point Lighthouse. Apparently Pozanac was also impressed by the daughters of lighthouses keepers as he asked Minie to be his wife.

The Pozanacs supplemented their keeper’s income by using part of the expansive lighthouse reservation to raise large quantities of chickens and vegetables. Soon, they were not only supplying eggs, fryers and produce for the station, but also for a number of grocery stores in Eureka.

One night, Pozanac was making his way to his post in the fog signal building to stand watch when a strong tremor struck the station. The earthquake toppled the tall chimney on the fog signal building and sent it crashing through the roof. The pile of bricks landed right where Pozanac would have likely been standing watch had he reached the building. The fortunate Pozanac remained at Table Bluff until 1938, when he was transferred to Ballast Point Lighthouse, a twin of the Table Bluff Lighthouse.

The Table Bluff Station was used by the military as a coastal lookout and radio station during the Second World War. A large barracks was built for single men along with six quarters for married couples. Patrols would regularly cover the coast between the Eel River and the entrance to Humboldt Bay on horseback, keeping an eye out for enemy activities. A small community lived atop the bluff during the war, but when the global conflict ended, only the keepers were needed at the station. The station thus had an excess of housing, and the Coast Guard decided to demolish the historic dwelling portion of the lighthouse and the keeper’s duplex in favor of the more modern housing. The wooden tower, separated from its supporting dwelling, had to be steadied by cables.

Lens used in Table Bluff Lighthouse
In 1953, the Table Bluff Station was one of the first to be automated. A modern optic was installed in the tower, and the Fresnel lens was shipped to San Diego to be displayed in the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. At that time, it was determined that the fog signal was no longer needed so it was discontinued.

Gospel Outreach acquired the station in 1971, named it Lighthouse Ranch, and used it for a training and retreat center. The Coast Guard would visit the ranch periodically to service the light, until it was deactivated in 1975, after powerful new range lights were established at the entrance to Humboldt Harbor.

Under the guidance of Ray Glavich, the two-story tower was cut in two and relocated to Eureka’s Woodley Island Marina in 1987. The Fresnel lens has been retrieved from the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and is now on display at the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum in Samoa (just outside Eureka). The museum also has the cupola from the original Humboldt Bay Lighthouse, which was found in the sand on the northern spit in 1987.

The Wildlife Conservation Board and Coastal Conservancy teamed up to purchase Lighthouse Ranch, and the property is now managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2012, the BLM awarded a $307,125 for the demolition of all remaining structures on the property including the original fog signal building, carpenter shop, oil house, and the foundation where the tower and dwelling once stood. Visitors can now experience the marvelous panoramic views afforded by the lofty setting at Table Bluff, but all of the station's historic structures are gone.

Head Keepers: Tony Schmoll (1891 – at least 1912), Stephen Pozanac (1922 - 1938), Wallace Evans (1938 - at least 1940).

Photo Gallery: 1 2

References

  1. Lighthouses and Lifeboats of the Redwood Coast, Ralph Shanks, 1978.
  2. Lighthouses of the Pacific, Jim Gibbs, 1986.
  3. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.

Location: The lighthouse is located on Woodley Island in Eureka.
Latitude: 40.8082
Longitude: -124.16548

For a larger map of Table Bluff Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: The Table Bluff Lighthouse tower can be reached by going north on Highway 255 (R Street) from Highway 101 in Eureka. Once you cross the bridge, take the exit on Woodley Island and follow Startare Drive to its end where you will see the lighthouse located in the parking lot of Woodley Island Marina.

The lighthouse's Fresnel lens can be seen at the Humbolt Bay Maritime Museum located next to the Samoa Cookhouse. Phone: (707) 444-9440. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in season. Also, don't miss the Victorian Carson Mansion located in Eureka just across the harbor from the Table Bluff Lighthouse tower.

The lighthouse is owned by Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. Grounds open, tower closed.

Find the closest hotels to Table Bluff Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
While in Eureka, don't miss the spectacular Victorian Carson Mansion, (here are four pictures of it: 1, 2, 3, 4), and if you are looking for a good place to eat, try a meal served "Lumber Camp Style" at the Samoa Cookhouse.

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Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.