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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

The Dragon Rocks Lighthouse

In 1865, the overloaded passenger steamer Brother Jonathan suddenly encountered severe winds and rough seas after leaving San Francisco Bay. Attempting to reach safety in the Crescent City harbor, the ship was forced to pass through St. George Reef, where thick, smoke-like spray obscured the rocks. Dubbed the “Dragon Rocks” in 1792 by explorer George Vancouver, the St. George Reef is the peak of a submerged volcanic mountain. The Brother Jonathan struck the reef on July 30, 1865, resulting in the loss of almost 200 lives. The loss of the steamer’s passengers was an impetus for placing a lighthouse in these treacherous waters, although it took years to complete due to the changing availability of federal funds. Constructed between 1882 and 1892 and rising 150 feet above the sea, the St. George lighthouse is an outstanding engineering feat, constructed on a concrete pier on wave-washed North West Seal Rock, six miles off the California coast near Crescent City. Always considered one of the most dangerous stations in the lighthouse service, it ceased operation in 1975. Today the lighthouse is not accessible to the public, but its magnificent Fresnel Lens resides in the Del Norte County Historical Society Museum.

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