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Cattle Point Lighthouse

Cattle Point, located on Cape San Juan on the southeastern tip of the San Juan Island, overlooks the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Cattle Point was part of American Camp, the U.S. Army's encampment, during the Pig War, a confrontation between U.S. and British troops over a boundary dispute of the US-Canadian border within the San Juan Islands, triggered by the shooting of a pig.

Shortly after the Hudson's Bay Company established a ranch on San Juan Island in 1853, a ship ran up on nearby rocks, forcing its cargo of cattle to swim ashore, earning the point its name. This lighthouse was built in 1935, but the first light on Cattle Point was a simple brass lens lantern on a post in 1888. It was maintained by a soldier who had been stationed at American Camp, and later became a rancher on the island. He provided daily maintenance, including cleaning the lens and filling the reservoir with kerosene. The light provided a navigation aid for ships entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Navy took over responsibility for the light when it built a radio compass station with crew quarters in 1921, and the US Lighthouse Service took over in 1935. At that time, the current lighthouse was built. It installed a 94-foot lantern room to replace the original light and radio compass and installed a drum lens with an electric-powered 1,500-candle watt light that could be seen for seven miles, as well as a fog signal.

The new Cattle Point Lighthouse had only contracted keepers, an unusual detour for the Lighthouse Service. Like so many other lighthouses in the Service, the Cattle Point Light was automated in the 1950s. When the Coast Guard took possession an automatic foghorn that sensed moisture in the air was installed. The Coast Guard has provided continuous care and maintenance from its Seattle navigation station ever since, including a retrofitting to its foundation, which was eroding away.

The lighthouse and surrounding land is part of the Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area, and in 2013, became part of the San Juan Islands National Monument.


A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Cattle Point Lighthouse

The lighthouse had a temporary remodel in 1984 when Exxon shot a commercial there. The company fitted the lighthouse with a fake lantern room and railing for the ad.

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