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The California coast, from the majestic redwoods and rocky shores in the north to the palm trees and wide, sandy beaches in the south, is an area of unsurpassed beauty and diversity. This revised and expanded sixth edition of the California Coastal Access Guide is an essential handbook for both new and seasoned visitors exploring California's majestic 1,100-mile shoreline. With up-to-date maps and information, it is a valuable guide for all beachgoers—hikers, campers, swimmers, divers, wheelchair users, joggers, and boaters—detailing where to go, how to get there, and what facilities and environment to expect.
The Guide contains:
o information on more than 890 public access coastal areas
o Clear descriptions of campgrounds, trails, recreation areas, transportation, and parking
o Addresses, phone numbers, websites, transit information, and hours of use
Information on wheelchair-accessible facilities
o Easy-to-read charts listing facilities and topographical features
o 125 updated maps providing directions and driving distances
o 15 full-color county maps
o More than 300 illustrations
o Also contained in this handbook is extensive information on environmental issues, updated to account for changing ecological conditions and conservation strategies. Feature articles cover a broad range of topics, including natural history, marine and coastal wildlife, environmental issues, and sports and recreation.
Over thirty years ago California voters approved an initiative that led to the creation of the California Coastal Commission. Later, the California Coastal Act of 1976 established the Commission as a permanent state agency with a mission to protect, maintain, and enhance the quality of the coastal environment. One of the Commission's principal goals is to maintain public access and public recreational opportunities along the coast in a way consistent with environmental preservation. The California Coastal Access Guide, which was created with these objectives in mind, will prove indispensable to anyone with a desire to explore the magnificent diversity of California's beaches.
Monterey County's coastline is one of the most beautiful in the state, stretching from the flat coastal plain around Monterey Bay in the north, through the steep hills of the Monterey Peninsula, to the magnificent, rugged Big Sur Coast.
Monterey Bay was sighted in 1542 by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, and visited again 60 years later by Sebastian Vizcaíno, who named it in honor of his Mexican viceroy, the Count of Monte Rey. In 1770 Gaspar de Portola and Padre Junípero Serra established the Presidio and the second California mission. The settlement was immediately successful largely because of abundant timber, fertile soil, and mild weather.
Prior to Spanish settlement, the Monterey Bay area was inhabited by the Ohlone, or Costanoan Indians, who were hunter-gatherers, shellfish being their primary food source. During the Spanish occupation the Indians were concentrated in the missions, but following the secularization of the missions by the Mexicans, the Indians were dispersed and eventually disappeared. By 1920, there were only 56 surviving Costanoans.
Moss Landing, the northernmost coastal town in Monterey, was established in the 1860s by Captain Charles Moss, and soon became a bustling harbor and whaling station. Now it is a pleasure and fishing boat harbor, with antique shops, flea markets, and restaurants.
Monterey Peninsula, at the southwest end of Monterey Bay, is the focal point of the county, with its towns of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Carmel. Historically, the city of Monterey was the capital of Alta California under both Spanish and Mexican rule. Today, the "Path of History" meanders through the city and passes many historic buildings and sites. Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck's novel, Cannery Row, was the site of flourishing sardine canneries in the 1940s until the sardines suddenly vanished in 1951. Although the sardines later returned, the canning industry did not, and Cannery Row is now a tourist attraction with shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Pacific Grove, on the north side of the peninsula, is noted for its beautiful flowering ice plant, Mesembryanthemum, and the millions of Monarch butterflies that winter in the the trees. Seventeen-Mile Drive winds through the forested hills of the Del Monte Forest and along the rocky coast of Pebble Beach. Carmel-by-the-Sea, located at the southwest edge of the peninsula, is a Mediterranean-like village that has become a mecca for both artists and tourists with its shops on the hill, sailboats on the water, and clean, white sandy beach on Carmel Bay.
South of Carmel is Point Lobos State Reserve, a magnificent headland with trails leading through Monterey cypress groves and along the shore, tidepools rich in aquatic life, and abundant marine life such as sea lions and sea otters in the offshore kelp beds.
South of Point Lobos, Highway 1 narrows and winds along the Big Sur Coast between the steep Santa Lucia Mountains and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. There are many pull-outs with spectacular vistas, and several public picnic areas and beaches along Highway 1; Los Padres National Forest, which includes the Ventana Wilderness, begins at the coast and stretches inland for miles, providing numerous hiking trails and campsites. The original inhabitants of the Big Sur Coast were the Esselen Indians, who lived from Point Sur to Lucia; the Salinans, who lived south of Lucia; and the Costanoans, who lived along the coast from the Palo Colorado Canyon to the Big Sur River mouth.
Wetlands are areas where the land meets the water in a gradual transition, characterized by wet soils or by plants adapted to a wet environment; a variety of coastal areas are categorized as wetlands, including salt marshes, freshwater or brackish water marshes, shallow-water lagoons, tidal mudflats, salt flats, and fens.
Coastal wetlands are usually created by the flow of sediments into a bay, river mouth, or other shallow area, forming a delta. This delta gradually builds up to an elevation above low tide level; at that point, plants such as cordgrass and other salt marsh species move in. These plants slow the currents and trap more sediments, causing the wetlands to expand further. As more sediment becomes trapped on the delta, upland plant species take over, converting prior wetlands to uplands. Thus, like most natural landforms, wetlands are continually subject to periodic creation and change.
Up until 500 years ago, wetlands covered over 300,000 acres of California's coastal areas, not including the San Francisco Bay area. Only 70,000 acres of coastal wetlands remain today. Diking and filling of wetlands for development projects account for much of this loss. In addition, soil erosion from hillsides has tripled the rate of sedimentation of wetlands during the last hundred years. If wetland sedimentation continues at this level, many remaining wetlands will be lost as well.
Ecologists have found that coastal wetlands are essential habitats for certain fish, birds, and mammals; in addition, many migratory ducks, geese, and shorebirds depend on wetlands for feeding and nesting. San Diego Bay wetlands, for example, seasonally support more than 180 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, 43 species of fish, and thousands of smaller organisms such as crabs, mussels, and ghost shrimp. Elkhorn Slough in Monterey County contains similar numbers of species, including more than 90,000 gaper clams, one of the species sought by clammers.
Many of the species of birds and mammals listed by the Department of Fish and Game as endangered in California are either directly dependent on or somehow associated with wetlands; these include the salt marsh harvest mouse, the California clapper rail, and the California least tern.
Wetlands also provide a number of direct and indirect benefits to humans. They help stabilize shorelines and absorb flood waters, lessening the need for costly flood control measures; futhermore they purify coastal waters through natural sewage treatment, trapping sediments that would otherwise fill navigation channels. Wetlands are also significant recreation resources and provide opportunities for fishing and bird watching, as well as for nature study and scientific research.
Since wetlands are so valuable from both an economic and biologic standpoint, the California Coastal Act, along with many other federal and state statutes and regulations, mandates governmental regulation in these areas to protect and restore California's wetlands.
ZMUDOWSKI STATE BEACH: 177 acres. Lands adjacent to Giberson Road are private; do not trespass. Boardwalk leads through dunes to sandy beach; popular for fishing and clamming. Hazardous riptides. No fires, no dogs. Natural history tours subject to ranger availability.
MOSS LANDING STATE BEACH: Also known as Jetty Beach. 55-acre dune and seashore park; a Pacific Flyway stop over. Birdwatching is popular. Offshore fishing, surfing, and windsurfing are popular activities. Strong tides are hazardous. Chemical toilets available. No dogs or fires. No fee. Parking lot closes 1/2 hour before sunset.
ELKHORN SLOUGH: Tidal slough used extensively for research and education. The endangered California brown pelican is found here; the peregrine falcon and golden eagle are also seen. Harbor seals and sea otters are also present.
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 1,400 acres of wetland and upland habitat. Five miles of trails; a wheelchair-accessible path leads to an overlook. The visitor center has interpretive displays, docent-led walks on weekends, parking, and wheelchair-accessible restrooms. Fee charged; free entrance with California Wildlife Campaign pass, or valid fishing or hunting license. Reserve open 9 AM-5 PM, Wed.-Sun. No fishing, hunting or boating on the Reserve.
KIRBY PARK: A public fishing access at the northeast end of the slough, off Kirby Rd., west of Elkhorn Road. A mile-long paved wheelchair-accessible trail runs north along the slough. Boat ramp with boating floats and kayaks. Portable restrooms and barrier free access to waterfront for fishing. Access is available to Elkhorn Slough Preserve at north end of Kirby Park. Hours: 5 AM-10 PM daily.
MOSS LANDING WILDLIFE AREA: Located on the northwest side of Elkhorn Slough, opposite the National Reserve, the wildlife area features roosting grounds for California brown pelicans. There is a trail system and small parking lot. Seasonal closures to protect the snowy plover.
MOSS LANDING HARBOR: The T-shaped harbor is considered to be an extremely safe refuge; used for commercial fishing, research vessels, and pleasure boating. Facilities include slips and dry storage, fuel dock, pump-out station, supplies, bait and tackle, restaurants, showers, and wheelchair-accessible restrooms. The North Harbor area has a 2-lane boat ramp; fee charged. The harbor office is at the South Harbor; parking and fishing at the south jetty.
SALINAS RIVER STATE BEACH: 246 acres. Boardwalk and steep dune trails lead to the beach. Main parking lot off Molera Road at end of Monterey Dunes Way. Smaller lot at end of Potrero Road off Hwy. 1. Fishing, clamming and hiking. No dogs and no fires allowed. Horses permitted on the beach and on interdune trail only. The 367-acre Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge is located just south of the State Beach; there is a trail and parking.
MONTEREY BAY SANCTUARY SCENIC TRAIL: The Monterey County section of the Scenic Trail is known as the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. This 29-mile multi-use trail stretches from Castroville to Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. The path accommodates walkers, joggers, skaters, and cyclists. With limited exceptions the trail is separated from the road.
MARINA DUNES R.V. PARK: Take the Reservation Road exit off Hwy. 1, go west, then right on Dunes Drive. Private R.V. campground with 65 sites and all hookups. Fee. Pets on leash allowed. Reservations recommended. Beach access is via Marina State Beach to the west.
MARINA STATE BEACH: 170 acres dunes and beach. Main entrance at foot of Reservation Road. Popular fishing beach. Hang-gliding deck with launch ramp at main part of beach. No horses, dogs or fires. Swimming is unsafe due to dangerous surf. The parking lot and restrooms are at the main entrance. Near the parking lot a 2,000 foot long boardwalk leads to the beach. It is wheelchair accessible to an observation platform at the halfway point (sometimes closed due to sand). Pedestrian access is also available to the southern part of the beach from Lake Court in Marina through a gate up a steep trail across the dunes.
The planned Fort Ord Dunes State Park will extend 4 miles along the Monterey Bay shoreline between the cities of Marina and Sand City. Public beach access facilities and coastal dune restoration are expected to be major features of the new park.
LOCKE PADDON WETLAND COMMUNITY PARK: At Reservation and Seaside Roads. A pedestrian dirt path and an asphalt bicycle path run along the perimeter of this wetland area that hosts migratory fowl. Popular for nature walks and bird watching; facilities include picnic tables and wheelchair-accessible restrooms. An interpretive panel provides information on the wetlands.
ROBERTS LAKE: A freshwater lake with beach access, located inland of Highway 1 at the foot of Humboldt Street in Seaside. Used for model boat racing and duck feeding. Parking along Roberts Avenue. Adjoins Monterey Bay Recreational Trail.
LAGUNA GRANDE: Connected to Roberts Lake. A freshwater lake that is a natural preserve for birds. A paved path crosses the lake via a bridge. Grassy picnic areas with barbecue pits and playground with volleyball nets for rent. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms and parking at both west and east sides. Access located off Del Monte Avenue at Virgin and Montecito.
MONTEREY STATE BEACH: (off Sand Dunes Drive) 22 acres of dunes and sandy beach. Roadside parking and wheelchair accessible restrooms. Entrance gate is locked at night.
DEL MONTE BEACH: An 11-acre sandy beach with a small parking area, boardwalk, picnic tables and benches. At the end of Beach Way off Del Monte Boulevard.
MONTEREY BAY PARK: (includes a section of Monterey State Beach) A 19-acre lineal beach and grassy area upcoast of Municipal Wharf No. 2. The surf is hazardous. Benches, restrooms, volleyball courts. Sailboat and kayak launching from beach adjacent to wharf. Dogs are permitted if leashed. Fee parking. Information: (831) 646-3860. Beachgoers can walk the sandy beach from Monterey State Beach to the Municipal Wharf No. 2. The fragile dune ecosystems along this route are under restoration. Do not disturb. Use only designated walkways.
EL ESTERO PARK: El Estero Lake attracts ducks and other migrating birds. No feeding allowed. Facilities include a fishing pier (fishing license required), picnic tables, par course, baseball fields, benches, snack bar and paddle boat rentals. Dennis the Menace Play Area contains a Southern Pacific steam locomotive and other unusual play equipment. Restrooms and play area inside the playground are wheelchair accessible. Open 10 AM-sundown. MONTEREY BAY COASTAL TRAIL: Runs along the old Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way the length of the City shoreline for three miles from Seaside to Lover's Point in Pacific Grove Benches and viewpoints along the wheelchair-accessible trail.
MUNICIPAL WHARF NO. 2: The wharf was built in 1926 and is used by commercial fishermen. Facilities include a restaurant, snack bar, bait and tackle. Fishing from wharf allowed. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms and metered parking. A 3-ton capacity coin operated public boat hoist is available year round. Hoist use requires training.
MONTEREY MARINA: The office is located between Fishermen's Wharf and Wharf No. 2. Facilities include a two-lane concrete public ramp open 24 hours; 412 slips. Visiting boats up to 70 feet accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Excerpted from CALIFORNIA COASTAL ACCESS GUIDE Copyright © 2003 by State of California. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Coastal Access Program
Public and Private Rights
Hazards, Safety, and Liability
Children and the Coast
Protecting Marine Wildlife
Caring for the Coast
Boating and Boating Safety
Beach Water Quality
Access for Persons with Disabilities
National Parks and Recreation Areas
State Parks and Beaches
Natural Reserves, Preserves, and Refuges
Envi ronmen tal Camping
Geology of the Coast
History of the Coast
How to Use the Guide
DEL NORTE COUNTY
Oregon Border to Crescent City
Redwood National Park/Klamath River
Northern Humboldt Coast
Orick to Patrick’s Point
Trinidad to the Mad River
Humboldt Bay/Eel River
Southern Humboldt Coast
Northern Mendocino Coast
Southern Mendocino Coast
Northern Sonoma Coast
Stillwater Cove to Russian River
Jenner to Bodega Bay
Tomales Bay East
Tomales Bay West
Point Reyes West
Point Reyes South
Stinson Beach/Mount Tamalpais
SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY
Northern San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge to Ocean Beach
Golden Gate Park to Fort Funston
SAN MATEO COUNTY
Princeton/Half Moon Bay
Southern San Mateo Coast
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
Northern Santa Cruz Coast
City of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Harbor Area
Capitola to the Pajaro River
Moss Landing/ Elkhorn Slough
Northern Big Sur
Southern Big Sur
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
Cayucos/North Morro Bay
South Morro Bay
Avila Beach/Northern Pismo Beach
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Northern Santa Barbara Coast
Point Conception to Naples
City of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara Harbor Area
City of Santa Barbara/Montecito
Anacapa and Santa Barbara Island
Northern Ventura Coast
Pitas Point to the City of Ventura
City of Ventura
Southern Ventura Coast
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Malibu Pier to Topanga Beach
Santa Monica Mountains West
Santa Monica Mountains East
Pacific Palisades/Santa Monica/VeBérénice
Marina Del Rey
Playa del Rey/Manhattan Beach/Hermosa Beach
King Harbor/Redondo Beach
Rancho Palos Verdes/Point Fermin
San Pedro/Los Angeles Harbor
City of Long Beach
Long Beach/Alamitos Bay
Santa Catalina Island East
Santa Catalina Island West
Seal Beach/Huntington Harbor
Upper Newport Bay to Crystal Cove State Park
South Laguna/Dana Point
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Del Mar/Torrey Pines
La Jolla Bluffs
Pacific Beach/Mission Beach
City of San Diego
South Bay/Imperial Beach