After spending the day exploring trails in Redwood National Park and Patrick’s Point State Park, and visiting the Humboldt Lagoons State Park Visitor Center, we arrived in Trinidad to check out the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, walk Trinidad State Beach, and hit the yummy Lighthouse Grill for dinner.
We love lighthouses and after stopping at the awesome Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City earlier in our Road Trip, I didn’t want to miss this one!
Overlooking Trinidad Bay, stands the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, a 25 foot tall concrete replica of the Trinidad Head Lighthouse and the focal point the city’s Lighthouse Memorial Park.
After modern counterparts replaced the original fog bell and Fresnel lens at Trinidad Head Lighthouse in 1947, the Coast Guard donated the historic artifacts to the Trinidad Civic Club for display in a planned memorial park overlooking Trinidad Bay.
Mrs. Earl Hallmark donated land for the park and in 1949 the club built built the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. The historic Fresnel lens was installed in the lighthouse’s lantern room, and the fog bell was suspended from a wooden frame built adjacent to the lighthouse.
In the early 1970s, the Trinidad Civic Club decided to establish a memorial at the lighthouse for those lost at sea. The memorial, which began as a marble slab engraved with sea gulls and the words Lost At Sea, has grown over the years.
In 1975, a four-sided, pyramidal monument was added near the fog bell that displays plaques inscribed with names of those lost at sea. Names of those buried at sea were later added and the list of names soon outgrew the plaques and additional plaques were placed along the adjacent cement retaining wall.
On Memorial Day each year, residents gather at the lighthouse to remember and honor those lost and buried at sea. Thanks to a generous donation by Dave Zebo, a former Mayor of Trinidad, the bell rings at noon each day in their memory.
The Memorial Lighthouse cared for and maintained by the Trinidad Civic Club and community supporters, including former Mayor Tom Odom who helped install a new stainless steel dome in 1998.
Many visitors believe the Memorial Lighthouse is the actual Trinidad Head Lighthouse!
About Trinidad Head Light Station
Trinidad, the oldest town on the northern California coast, was founded on April 8, 1850 and a lighthouse was proposed for the ocean-facing side of Trinidad Head in 1854. An appropriation for the lighthouse was made in June 1860 and while 42 acres on the southern portion of the headland were purchased in 1866, work did not begin until the spring of 1871.
A road was carved into the eastern side of the head and then work began on Trinidad Head Lighthouse, which would stand at the top of a 175 foot cliff. The tower and associated keeper’s dwelling, located roughly fifty yards from the tower, were finished over the course of the summer and fall, and in December 1871, Keeper Jeremiah Kiler activated the revolving fourth-order Fresnel lens for the first time.
Kiler remained lightkeeper for seventeen years and his successor, Fred L. Harrington was lightkeeper for twenty-eight years until 1916 when he retired and was replaced by Edward Wiborg.
In 1898, a fog bell was installed atop a rock outcropping roughly fifty feet below the level of the light. As the keeper had to wind the machinery every two hours, the single-family dwelling was expanded into a double-dwelling to house the additional keeper.
In December 1914, the lighthouse was struck by the highest recorded wave to strike the west coast. The wave extinguished the light 196 feet above sea level but it was back in service within half a hour.
The Coast Guard took control of the Trinidad Head Light Station in 1939 and in electricity came to the station in 1942. In 1947, the fog bell was replaced by compressed air horns, and the lens was removed in favor of a modern beacon.
The original keeper’s dwelling was razed in the late 1960s and the Coast Guard built a triplex to house its personnel. The station was automated in 1974, but Coast Guard personnel continued to live in the housing until sometime after 2000. Then in 2014, the property was transferred from the Coast Guard to the Bureau of Land Management.
Today Trinidad Head Lighthouse is still active with a drum-type Fresnel lens in the tower and a backup modern beacon mounted outside the lantern room. A pair of fog signals are stacked next to the fog bell house, which is the only remaining bell house in California.
Know Before You Go
- The Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse is located at 570 Trinity Street, Trinidad, California 95570 in Humboldt County.
- The Memorial Lighthouse grounds are open to visitors all day to visit and walk around. It is owned by the Town of Trinidad and the tower is closed to the public.
- The entire town of Trinidad is a California State Historical Landmark, as is Trinidad Head. The Trinidad Head Light Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The original Trinidad Head Lighthouse and the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse participate in the Lighthouse Passport program sponsored by the U.S. Lighthouse Society. Passports and stamps are available at the Trinidad Museum.
- Trinidad Head Lighthouse is visible from an observation platform on the Trinidad Head trail above the lighthouse or from a distance, off the viewing platform south of the granite cross that commemorates the Spanish landing in 1775.
- The original lighthouse is only open for tours conducted by the US Coast Guard on the second Sunday every June during the Trinidad Fish Festival. A special shuttle van takes visitors to the location.