Ventana Wilderness Society
of Big Sur
& Hwy One
Cove & Canyon
Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Iris in Big Sur
Coast Interactive Map
in Pacific Grove
in San Simeon
thought extinct, Elephant Seals have made a
resounding comeback. Go to the scene of some real
wildlife excitement. Hearst would have loved it,
right there in his front yard!
Bridges Butterfly Sanctuary
of the Wetlands
Double Cone Quarterly
Sur Land Trust
Big Sur Introduction and
Guide to California Central
seems forbidding, distant, and
fearless, intrepid Spaniards called it
"The great country to the South" - and
they were leery of venturing
lands remain elusive to most Caucasians,
but to Indians this was a pleasing
a white person ever saw Big Sur, a large
population of Indians lived here
peacefully and prosperously for thousands
of years. Salinan, Esselen, and
Ohlone-Rumsen artifacts show Big Sur
habitation for 10,000 years.
1542 Cabrillo sailed by here and wrote:
"There are mountains which seem to reach
to the heavens, and the sea beats on
Sur began 35 million years ago, 14 miles deep in
the earth off the coast of Mexico. Tectonic plates
rubbing against each other moved these mountainous
rocks north. Five million years ago they pushed up
out of the ocean to form an island that is now Big
Sur. The Santa Lucia range, which includes the
Ventana Wilderness of today, is young and
Big Sur is a coastal wilderness. It is as raw as
could be imagined for its 200,000 acres and 90
miles of California coast. It is a grand
testimony to the human craving for appreciating
this undeveloped, natural beauty that it has
been protected. A highway was constructed in the
1930's just to see this boldly beautiful natural
setting. The road in this setting has come to
define Big Sur for most people. But, the will of
the pioneers to conserve the remarkable region
has prevented its destruction by development.
Ninety-five per cent of
Big Sur is the fold-upon-fold of Ventana
Wilderness, rare biology, incredible geology
that most people do not ever see. In the coastal
mountain canyons that vein the intricate quilt
of watersheds (e.g. a hike in Partington) one
gets an inside peek at this wondrous
In these pages you will
come to know it, want to appreciate it and help
Sur Coast from high up Partington
by Margie Whitnah
the photo for a larger version.
a bend in the Big Sur road, about seven
miles south of Nepenthe, the McWay
waterfall suddenly appears. In
mid-formation is Saddle Rock, an object of
wonder for Big Sur pioneers.
Click the image for a larger version
Pfeiffer Burns State Park
begins here. Julia was a pioneer, and the park was
named after her by Helen and Lathrop Brown. Lathrop
was a congressman from New York, and became a high
ranking official in the U.S. Dept. of Interior.
Helen was the daughter of a wealthy banking family.
Together they built resorts on the Eastern
Seaboard. They researched to find what would be the
perfect seaside location on the Pacific Ocean side
of the continent. After coming to Big Sur, they
found McWay Cove, bought it, and built the
They so admired their
caretaker, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, the Browns
bequeathed the land to California for a
Called "Saddle Rock Ranch"
by the Browns, the property reaches north to
Partington Cove, and east to the ridge where they
built the Tin House.
Read about the
Falls used to drop directly into the ocean.
In 1983, however, the California Department
of Transportation, while repairing Hwy 1 from
landslide damage, bulldozed earth into the
ocean, creating more beaches.
cliffs are rugged, and the cove cannot be
reached by foot. These waters offer
spectacular scuba diving,
but only with a permit. The waterfall can be
approached by trail from the park. There's an
exquisite picnic area in the redwood grove
along the creek, and trails up to the ridge
overlook the coast. Next to the falls are two
North coast scenes. A grand
oak and Little Sur River.
Photos by Jack
Click photo for larger
"state of mind," that is this region, is
geographically 90 miles long and 20 miles
wide. Much of the best to see requires
more than driving along the
and its stunning forests, including
ancient growth redwoods, are close to the
highway, but must be hiked to.
experience the rarefied atmosphere of a
Big Sur mountain coastal
take a hike in
graphic for an interactive map
Hwy 1 threatened the majestic serenity of the
Ventana region of the California Central Coast.
People who loved the area feared the worst.
Development would surely be on the heels of the
road, and that would bring ruin to the region.
befits the character of the people who
inhabit this region, like those in
Carmel before them, the people rose to
thwart back the specter.
Owings, resident and conservationist,
said, "There's something about Big Sur
that puts people in their place.
Something they have to come back to,
because it does something to you. And
it gives you a responsibility to keep
it like this."
Sur River runs free and wild out of the
Santa Lucia Mountains through Big Sur
Valley and meets the sea in a lagoon at
village of Big Sur is demurely
strung along the Redwood-lined road
in the Big Sur Valley south of
of the finest novelists, painters, poets and
photographers have found inspiration for their
works in Big Sur's Coast. Robert Louis Stevenson,
Mary Austin, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis, John
Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers, Lillian Ross, Jack
Kerouac, Henry Miller, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams
all came here and enriched their palettes.
Sur People and Places)
view from the back shows the geological
significance of spanning the canyon. Before the
bridge, this was considered the beginning of Big
Sur. Hardly anyone went beyond this point. A ten
mile inland road accessed the lower reaches of
the bottom of this canyon, which was called
Rainbow then, there was a resort owned by the
family that rediscovered the Sea Otters in 1938.
Bixby once was a busy place. By 1910 there were
a dozen limekilns operating in the
last novel, Big Sur, the telling
of man's ferocious relationship with nature, was
written from three trips to this canyon. He
thought the creek, canyon and beach here made
Big Sur's isolation in 1932, the 714 ft long Bixby
Bridge made the Carmel - San Simeon road an
accomplishment for the ages. It is constructed of
6,600 cubic yards of concrete and 600,000 pounds of
reinforcing steel - and straight up, 260 feet above
the creek. The concrete abutments, anchored into
sheer rock walls 140 feet above the creek, are 330
graceful arch bows over the creek in the scrubby
canyon that rises abruptly on both sides from the
sea. It is one of the
highest single-span arch bridges in the
about Big Sur Bixby Bridge