> Point Bonita, California

According to the National Park Service the discovery of gold in 1848 changed California and the world forever. ******* San Francisco became the main port for gold seekers from around the globe. Within one year, 1849, the city’s population jumped from 900 to 20,000. ******* To lead the new settlers and explorers safely through the dangerous waters of the Bay entrance, a system of lighthouses developed. ******* Alcatraz’s light showed the way for ships directly in front of the Golden Gate and Fort Point’s lighthouse marked the southern edge of San Francisco Bay, but another lighthouse was needed north of the Golden Gate to make the entrance recognizable for ships sailing up the coast from the south. ******* That lighthouse site became Point Bonita. Point Bonita Lighthouse, the third lighthouse on the West Coast, was completed in 1855. Built upon a high ridge 300 feet above the water, there were soon complaints that thick fog frequently obscured the light beam. A new site at a lower elevation was chosen nearby at the tip of Point Bonita. Unstable rock made construction of a hand-hewn tunnel and trail to the site challenging. A new 3-room brick structure was built to support the upper half of the original lighthouse that was moved to the new site in 1877. ******* Despite the effectiveness of the lighthouses, over 300 boats ran aground near the Golden Gate during the gold rush years. The worst maritime disaster occurred in 1901, when the steamer City of Rio de Janeiro struck Point Diablo, near Point Bonita. ******* Despite approaching in darkness and continued fog, the pilot was pressured by an influential passenger to proceed. The lives of 128 passengers were lost when the City of Rio de Janeiro struck rocks, quickly filled with water and sank to the bottom of the Bay. The pilot and the deceased captain were later found guilty of gross neglegence and the steamship company was found responsible for the heavy loss of life due to its poorly supervised crew. *******