Photo by Susan
it to see the
from the sea
in San Simeon
thought extinct, Elephant Seals have made a
resounding comeback. Go the to scene of some real
wildlife excitement. Hearst would have loved it,
right there in his front yard!
of Big Sur
& Hwy One
Cove & Canyon
Pfeiffer Burns State Park
in Pacific Grove
Bridges Butterfly Sanctuary
of the Wetlands
Trips in Morro Bay
first sighting of Morro Bay is surprising.
Out of soft pastel hills rolling to the
sea, giant smoke stacks rise
It is a
paradox that something so man-made, so
industrial, can signal the presence of a
place so beautiful.
past the shock of the power plant, this intriguing
bayside wonderland reveals itself in one delight
after another. Morro Bay is one of the most
environmentally rewarding places on the California
Bay has become famous for its out-of-place power
plant. It was built in the 1950's when
California was booming, and there was not much
worry about environmental aesthetics. It looks
bad, but it brought jobs and people here. Some
people said the incredible seafood available
here would make Morro Bay an important spot on
the gastronomical map. In time it became a
seafood lover's treasure chest.
From end to end, this curious seaside town is
full of memorable places to eat seafood... a
sublimely marinated mussel with a slab of
applewood smoked salmon on one end to a royal
feast of abalone on the other - and
unpretentious eateries all along the way with
excellent clam chowders.
the Marina you may row across the bay to the
sand spit where secluded dunes, seashore, and
wildness abound. Morro Bay State Park
accommodates campers and the seasonal Monarch
butterflies which winter in the eucalyptus
grove. The Park has a public golf course and a
short trail to the top of Black Hill, where the
town and coast from Montaña de Oro to
Cayucos can be viewed.
Photos left and above by Joy
paradox is the great conical rock holding sway
at the end of a long sandy peninsula at the
mouth of a spectacular bay and estuary rich with
wildlife. With flatness all around, it rises 578
feet above the sea, and is a symbol and
Rock, the signature trademark of Morro Bay,
almost ceased to exist not long ago.
Photo by Jack
until the 1950's, it was being chipped away to
provide stone for road construction. Then one day,
it dawned upon them that The Rock was not growing
back, and if they didn't stop excavating, there
would be nothing left!
Now, of course, it is protected. Climbing is
prohibited due to the danger of falling. And birds
call it home again, like our namesake mating pair
here (photo at right). At times, several pairs of
peregrine falcons are nesting upon it.
The Rock went from road fill to treasure. Now it
is considered the Gilbraltar of California.
rock has been a symbol of the California Coast
since Cabrillo spotted it in 1542. Before that it
was a place of great significance to the Chumash
Indians. And, for the time even before that it is
the subject of lore for Asian travelers. It is said
a Chinese team of explorers captured this scene in
an ink dye illustration to depict their wanderings
in California and kept records of the culinary
delights here. In Baja California there is an old
legend from the Indians that this was where the
country to the north began, and they believed
people from Japan lived there.
Rock was the symbol for one of history's hottest
election battles, each side trying to appear more
favorable to Morro Rock preservation. The man who
won, Leon Panetta, went on to become one of
American history's greatest conservationists. He
was instrumental in volumes of crucial legislation
and public battles to stop the wanton destruction
of California's wondrous coast.
Photo by Joy
seafood is still legendary.
Bay offers a variety of activities for all ages and
abilities. In the Marina, boats, kayaks and canoes
can be rented by the hour or day, and several
cleaning stations for fishermen are available.
All of Morro Bay is a bird sanctuary and nature
preserve. Peregrine Falcons nest on Morro Rock.
Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest in
the trees along the Bay. Flocks of rare white
falcons inhabit the great sand-spit in front of the
little town. Bands of sandpipers and all sizes of
shore birds dance up and down the surf line. No
guns are allowed in town because the birds are a
national treasure. Morro Bay is one of the ten best
places in America to see birds.
from the golf course is the Morro Bay
Natural History Museum which offers a
spectacular vantage point of the bay and
its wildlife, including the nearby Great
Blue Heron rookery, where life-mated pairs
return every year to raise their
offspring. The variety is so abundant that
the museum interpretive display is a must
for those intent upon shore bird
giant chessboard on the sidewalk may seem a
novelty, but it is a practical pastime for the
Bay Chess Club.
Morro Bay is a great place for families to
introduce their children to coastal ecology.
There's a nautical theme playground at the south
end of the town's waterfront esplanade.
Near the Natural History Museum there are
wonderful story kiosks about the area's wildlife.
It all makes Morro Bay truly rewarding for families
closely at a Monarch in the grove by the
Photos of the children
(left) and the sailboat (above) by Joy
Bay is an important winter home for
Monarch butterflies. There are three
sanctuaries here. These incredible
critters leave their summer homes in
Canada in late Summer, and after flying
more than a thousand miles begin arriving
in California Coastal habitats in late
mating in Morro Bay
Marie Smith. Click the image for a larger
Alliance Against Plant
in Morro Bay questions the expansion plans for
the Duke Energy power plant.
Morro Bay environmental watchdog group that keeps
on top of public policy issues. Contact
learn about the challenges for protecting and
restoring the Morro Bay estuary,
Bay National Estuary Program
a website about peregrine falcons at Morro Bay -
See our story
San Luis Obispo
County is famous for expansive wildflower scenes
such as this near Pozo.
Birding around the Estuary is
a special walk April 5. Led by Bill Bouton. Meet at
the east end of the Morro Bay State Park Marina
parking lot 7:30 a.m.
Society of Morro Coast has interesting bird
outings regularly. Second Saturday of the
Month features a different walk each month.
For April, 2003's Second Saturday, the group will
meet at the main entrance of the Sweet Springs
preserve on Ramona Avenue in Los Osos. Call John
Perkins , 805 528-0540, or John Nowak, 464-0717 for
more information. Rain cancels.
nice birding page featuring Morro
Grizzly Bears, symbol of the state of
California, used to live around here. When hunting
them was allowed by law toward the end of the
1800's - it only took 10 years for the great
creature to be eradicated. The last wild California
Grizzly was caught on the eastern side of the
Hearst Ranch. It was ransomed to the Hearst family
for $10,000. It spent its, and its species' last
California days in a zoo. There is now a foundation
dedicated to restoring Grizzlies to isolated
habitats in our state: California
Greenberg, a free lance writer and
teacher based in Atascadero, contributed to this