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St. George Reef Lighthouse

St. George Reef is located six miles off the coast near Crescent City, California. It was originally named the “Dragon Rocks” by Captain George Vancouver, with the hopes that St. George would slay them. But it was not until the sinking of the steamer Brother Jonathan in July 1865, and the loss of 200 lives, did the government determine the need for a lighthouse.

Construction began in 1881 and could only take place during the spring and summer, as the fall and winter were considered too unstable. Two ships, anchored on each side of the rocks, served as crew quarters. A cable was stretched from each ship to the top of the rock, and a platform suspended from the cable was used to transport the workmen to and fro. When the seas threatened to wash over the rock, the workers would lash their tools to iron rings set into the rock and then ride the platform to safety.

In 1890, after 1,300 blocks were laid to form 21 levels of the pier and base, construction on the tower began. A giant first-order Fresnel Lens had been shipped from France and installed. Rising nearly sixteen stories above the sea, the light was finally ignited on the night of October 20, 1892.

The lighthouse was manned first by keepers, and after 1939, by the US. Coast Guard. It was one of the least sought-after and most dangerous assignments in the service. It challenged the mental health of its keepers. A total of nine lighthouse keepers lost their lives while on duty there. Georges Roux spent more years than any other keeper on the reef, arriving in 1910 and leaving in 1939, but despite three months on and two months off, service was difficult due to bad weather, delays in receiving food or mail, and threats to lives during the shuttles from land and back. One tragic accident in 1951 took the lives of three Coast Guard personnel when a cable broke during the hoisting of a launch when a rogue wave hit it.

This dangerous lighthouse was abandoned in 1975 following the placement of a navigational buoy. Left to the elements for many years after, the Fresnel lens was removed in 1983 by the Del Norte County Historical Society and placed in a museum in Crescent City.


A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about St. George Reef Lighthouse

The St. George Reef Lighthouse is built on the peak of a submerged volcanic mountain six miles off the extreme northern coast of California. While in operation, it was considered the most dangerous assignment in the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

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  • St. George Reef Lighthouse
  • Crescent City
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