The Punta Gorda Light Station was known as the "Alcatraz of lighthouses" because of its inaccessibility and because Light House Service employees were supposedly exiled there because of misconduct. There were up to five principal Keepers plus assistant "Wickies" during the Light Station operation years. Supplies were brought in by horseback, mule-drawn wagons, and sleds with wood runners along stretches of the beach, from Petrolia, 10 miles away although occasionally light service tenders would heave to offshore and send small boats with supplies through the surf to the station. Transportation was predominately horse and buggy up to and during WWII. One Coast Guard career horse, named Old Bill, served the Punta Gorda Light Station as a saddle horse, pack horse, and buggy horse for thirty years until the station closed in 1951. Jeeps were used during the last few years prior to abandonment when weather permitted. However, the last commander of the light station, carrying his briefcase, rode out on horseback upon closure of the station.
The light station consisted of three two-story frame dwellings, a frame fog signal house, blacksmith and carpenter shop, outbuildings, a reinforced concrete light building with iron tower and curved iron stairway, and a reinforced concrete oil and distillate storage house. A small creek on the south side of the light station supplied the water for the station.
One of the outbuildings was a large, one-story barn. Facilities for cows, chickens, goats, horses, lambs, and other animals were necessary due to the isolated station locale, extreme weather conditions, and distance to nearest town. Self-sufficiency was essential. See letter from former Coast Guard seaman, Ron Thomas for conditions at the Punta Gorda Light Station in 1949.
The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 5, 1976. The Fresnel lens and the flag staff pole were removed many years ago to the Maritime Museum in Eureka, California and there are no outbuildings remaining to service the Station.
The Punta Gorda lighthouse began operating on January 15, 1912. It is believed that Paschal "Pass" M. Hunter (see photos above) was the first Punta Gorda Light Keeper. Unfortunately, Pass Hunter died of heart failure that very same year. His son Perry, became a Keeper when he grew up.
The Punta Gorda Lighthouse is located on a remote section of the King Range National Conservation Area in Humboldt County, California and is managed by the Arcata Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Access to the area is limited to non-vehicular foot traffic, helicopter air traffic, or by boat from the sea.