San Simeon and Piedras BlancasReturn of Elephant Seals – California Central Coast EcoGuide

Hearst built the great American show off here. But a prehistoric legacy has made an epic reappearance and commands attention, too.

New E-Seal Gallery – Jutta Jacobs

Kathe Tanner Reports from the Beaches

Elephant Seal Field Guide by Jane Strong

Elephant Seal Gallery by Jackie Van Riessen

A Prome by Karen Cotter

Elephant Seal History by Kristi West

Activities & Events Calendar

Now the Castle has a rival attraction in the neighborhood.

Once considered extinct, Elephant Seals are claiming the beaches amidst a great battle for the environmental destiny of Piedras Blancas and San Simeon.

The old schoolhouse for children of Hearst Ranch workers, and the “Castle” on the hill in the background.

The feeling of Hearst has a heady presence around San Simeon and Piedras Blancas. Originally named by the Spanish explorers, the area became a land grant obtained by his father. The name means White Rocks, and his father kept it for his ranch, for the great rock sentinels to this fine coast are distinctive.
A young mother ponders the human phenomena so prevalent at the Piedras Blancas beach coves. See our Elephant Seal Gallery by Jackie Van Riessen

Two new born pups and a tired mom – one of the exciting photos by Jutta Jacobs, Friends of the Elephant Seals

Click the image to see a larger version

More of Jutta’s Elephant Seal Phtographs

Karen Cotter, an active wildlife and conservation advocate, took this photograph in June, 1998, on the south beach near Vista Point 3. These are females with their newborn gaining weight for their migration north. (Another, bigger, photo by Karen)

A Prome by Karen about the Elephant Seals of Cambria

The schoolhouse was built for the village he established for the workers of the castle, and this photograph shows the prominence of America’s most conspicuous display of wealth.

The Zebras are all that’s left of his African imported estate zoo.

However, a burgeoning colony of Elephant Seals, once thought extinct, have colonized the newspaper mogul’s beaches.

Three thousand pound Elephant Seals playing, flipping sand on their backs, hopping about, snuggling with their siblings, snorting, honking and rolling around has the grand effect of reducing humans to a silly, giddy state.


See our Field Guide for all the great facts abut E Seals.

A new elephant seal.

Photo by Jackie Van Riessen
Hearst brought Hollywood luminaries of his day here, but they never saw anything as great as these elephant seals that are here now.
Twenty years ago small colonies of these great creatures were discovered at Guadalupe Island off Baja California peninsula.

Later they were found building colonies in the Santa Barbara Islands, and at Año Nuevo between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay.

E-Seals, as they are affectionately referred to in these parts are incredible animals. They migrate several thousands of miles each year, and dive to depths of 5,000 feet.

Unless they are mating, or fighting to mate, mostly they rest while on these beaches. Youngsters play in the surf while learning to swim.

A History of the Northern Elephant Seal by Kristi West

Eight years ago an elephant seal appeared at Piedras Blancas, and three years ago whole families arrived. This year, more than 2,000 were in residence. Young bulls bring harems to five beaches and coves at this new locale. The terrific proliferation must beat least in part due to the regulations of Monterey Bay as a marine sanctuary.

A Friends of the Elephant Seals docent points shows visitor how the seals cavort in the surf at Piedras Blancas. To learn about the docent program, and how you can volunteer with this valuable progarm email: Volunteer

A pleasant and serious army of volunteer docents has emerged to guard the seals from obstreperous humans, and to educate us about their history and behavior.

An informative story: Coast and Ocean.

Kathe Tannner Reports from the Beaches

Field notes from Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seal Field Guide by Jane Strong

Elephant Seal Gallery by Jackie Van Riessen

A Prome by Karen Cotter

Elephant Seal History by Kristi West

Where to stay? Big Sur Lodge


To join our email list:

Yes. I want to be on the PelicanNetwork email list.

(Your name and email address will not be given to anybody. You will receive stories and reports about once a week – for example about natural and cultural history events, group hikes, new books and issues.)

My Name
My Email


Read Member Comments about Cambria and the Elephant Seals.

People who work with the public, and with volunteers to inform the public wrote this book. You an order it by visiting Friends of the Elephant Seals

To visit the new website exclusively for Friends of the Elephant Seals:

New: Northern Elephant Seal Rookery Interactive Map 


Big Sur Art

Big Sur Lodge

Organic Flowers

Best of California’s Central Coast –


Approved to benefit Pelican Affinity Partners, the community-based non profits who help the arts and environment.

Submit a comment or a question to PelicanNetwork.

My Name


I am interested in becoming a member of PelicanNetwork

PelicanNetwork is an internet based network of community based non profits dedicated to advancing knowledge of the natural history and the arts on the Central Coast.

New: Northern Elephant Seal Rookery Interactive Map


Point Lobos

Pelican Getaways

Santa Cruz Redwoods

Big Sur Story

Pacific Grove

Steinbeck Center

Big Basin Creation

Big Sur Eco Guide


Central Coast Guide

C. Coast Activities

Big Sur Lodge

Elkhorn Slough

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Central Coast Events

Big Sur Campgrounds


Calif. Back Country

Central Coast Map

Sandpiper Inn

Monterey Peninsula

San Juan Bautista

Ventana Wilderness

Carmel Hiking

Bygone Towns

Pelican Protectin Alliance

Molera State Park

Pebble Beach


Monarchs in Pacific Grove

Big Sur People & Places

Santa Cruz


Natural Bridges – Butterfly

Big Sur Watercolors

Monterey Bay Volunteer

San Simeon-Piedras Blancas

Big Sur Hiking

Marine Sanctuary

Elephant Seal Notes

Artichoke Store

Big Sur Lodging

Moss Landing


Garden Art

Hwy One – Big Sur Road

Carmel Valley

Mission San Antonio


Big Sur Cabins

Carmel Birding

Hearst Hacienda

Birding Places

Big Sur Coast

Carmel Lodging

Elephant Seals


Point Sur Historical Park

Morro Bay

Montaña de Oro

Nature Guide

Partington Cove & Canyon

Hecker Pass


Member Comments

Nacimiento Road

Pinnacles Monument


PelicanNetwork Links

Old Coast Road – Big Sur

Kayak Central Coast

Salinan Nation

PelicanNetwork Home

Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Bixby Bridge

Rock Art Site Steward

About Pelican Network

Big Sur Diving


Member’s Comments

Pelican Member

Big Sur Birding

Big Sur Sanctuary

Voices of the Wetlands