California Coastal National Monument
There are changes coming, or recently enacted, at the California Coastal National Monument where what used to be a spectacular collection of 20,000 islands off the coast of California stretching 1,100 miles from the south near San Diego to the northern border of the state, but was somewhat hard to comprehend, now gains a new focus. Originally preserved as a national monument by President Bill Clinton on January 11, 2000, it has now been expanded by President Barack Obama in 2014 to include 1,665 acres along twelve miles of the coast near Point Arena (Mendocino).
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California Coastal Then
Since most of the Calfornia Coastal National Monument is in the nature of its rocks and sea, the then is really the beginning of time, although it does have its more recent history in Indian culture, the Mission period, ship builders, gold seekers, and sailors. At one of its nearby points of interest, the Point Arena Lighthouse, history has that more man-made aspect weaving amongst those more natural elements. The initial lighthouse and building were constructed in 1870, but the earthquake of 1906 destroyed much on Point Arena and the new lighthouse was constructed, taking eighteen months, and reopening in 1908. It took four men to operate back in the day. That's the lighthouse you can see today and is a California Historic Landmark. And on an even more in the past note: the first European to record Point Arena was Spaniard Bartolome' Ferrelo in 1543.
Photo above: A sunset there both then and now along the Pacific Coast and the California Coastal National Monument. Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, California, Bob Wick. Below: Lighthouse in the distance at California Coastal National Monument. Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, California, Bob Wick.
California Coastal Now
Yes, the new focus may still be coming into view as the Bureau of Land Management (the government unit charged with managing this National Monument) puts into operation a new management plan for visitation over the coming years, but if you've been along the California coast for any amount of time over the last decade, you've probably been visiting, or viewing parts of the spectacular scenery saved by the California Coastal National Monument. It's just that you probably didn't know it. So what lands are included in the monument? Well, basically, it's anything that protrudes above from the Pacific Ocean above mean tide between Mexico and Oregon. Oh, boy, that covers a lot of territory, now doesn't it. And how did we come to own it? Well, that goes a long way back beyond both those presidents. Thanks to the Mexican War, we gained these lands off the coast as part of the treaty with Mexico in 1848.
But, of course, it's not just the land that protrubes through the crashing waves of the Pacific, but the wildlife that inhabit the area from the temperate climes of Southern California to the border with Oregon. There are the myriad of seals, including the harbor, sea lion, and elephant seal. Plus the butterfly, the mountain beaver, willow flycsatcher also like to call these lands home. And all along this stretch of coastline, you'll see and be able to visit lighthouses, and even stay in a couple, if that's your drift or where you'd like to drift away at night instead of the local motel culled from an online search. Check out the California Coastal National Monument and look into the myriad of adventures that await, the history of the land, sea, and folks who inhabited it in the past and today, plus the preservation of the coastline that many may have passed by without even knowing that it was a National Monument at all.
The Point Arena Lighthouse can be visited, but is just one of a myriad of interesting places within or near the national monument. You can also visit sites such as the Piedras Blancas Light Station and get a guided tour by BLM staff or volunteers. This is a two hour tour and starts from the motel, not the lighthouse. You can visit San Francisco or Carmel or the Hearst Castle, because when you're in the vicinity of the over one thousand miles of the California coast represented by this national monument, you're within driving distance of it all.
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California Coastal National Monument
Things You Should Not Miss
1. Take some photos. The spectacular sights along the California coast can't be overstated. Just keep snapping. You're bound to get some great ones.
2. Visit a lighthouse, whether at Point Arena, Piedras Blancas, or Pigeon Point and step back into a time when the ships at sea relied on lightkeepers to keep watch for their safety. And BTW, some of these lighthouses are still in use, albeit with more modern technology.
3. Head out into the water for a dip, a surf, or some kayaking. It's a place of a whole lot of sea. Take care and enjoy it.
Photo above: One kayaker along the coast. Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, California, Bob Wick.
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