Posts Tagged ‘Camping’

Catalina Island

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Catalina Island

Catalina Island

Twenty two miles southwest of Los Angeles lies the island of Catalina. Life on the island moves at a slower pace than on the mainland. There are many activities and things to do on the island or if you prefer you can just relax and enjoy the scenery. The ferry ride is about 26 miles or you can fly in to Airport in the Sky which is about halfway between the two main towns of Avalon and Two Harbors. The island is 22 miles (35 KM) long and 8 miles (13 KM) wide. The highest point is Mt Orizaba at 2126 feet (648 meters) The permanent population is 3700 people with 3300 living around Avalon and 300 living at Two Harbors. The other 100 people are scattered across the island.

Things to Do

There are many things to do on the island. You can scuba dive, snorkel, go fishing, go ocean kayaking, para sail, go mountain biking, horseback riding, or just wander through shops and galleries.


The island was originally inhabited by the Tongva tribe of Indians. They called the island Pimu or Pimunga. They mined soapstone and traded with the Indians on the mainland. The first European to visit the island was Juan Cabrillo on October 7 1542. He named the island San Salvador. Sebastion Vizcaino rediscovered the island on November 24 1602 and named it Santa Catalina to honor the feast day of St Catherine of Alexandria.

Many different people visited the island between 1500 and 1860. There were Russian otter hunters smugglers and fishermen. There was a brief gold rush from 1860 to 1864 but very little gold was found. In 1864 all people on the island were ordered to leave by the Union Army. They were afraid privateers were using the island as a staging area to smuggle arms and supplies to the Confederate Army.

A small garrison of Union troops was stationed on the island and the barracks is now the Isthmus Yacht Club. After the civil war was over, the island was home to only a few cattle ranchers until 1887 when real estate developer George Shatto purchased the Island for $200,000. Shatto created the town of Avalon. Shatto’s sister in law named the town after the town of King Arthur in the Poem “Idylls of the King “ by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Shatto went broke and lost the island to James Lick.

Phineas Banning bought the island from the Lick estate in 1891. Banning built a house on the other side of the island and called it Two Harbors. In 1915 a fire burned down half of the town of Avalon. In 1919 Banning sold the island to William Wrigley.

The Chicago Cubs, another Wrigley possession used the island as a spring training camp from 1921 to 1951. In 1927, Wrigley sponsored the Wrigley Ocean Marathon and Canadian George Young swam the channel from the island to the mainland in 15 hours 44 minutes.

From 1942 to 1945 during the second world war, the island was used as a troop training ground. The airport, which was made by chopping the tops off of two mountains and filling in between them, opened in 1946. It was called Airport in the Sky. It is a 3250 ft (990 meter) runway at 1602 foot (488 meters) altitude.

Wrigley built a dance hall called the Casino in 1929. It was 12 stories tall and had a theater with world class acoustics and a large ballroom on top.

In 1975 Phillip Wrigley gave his share of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy. This was the company he created to run the island.

n 2007 a fire burned 4000 acres and destroyed 6 businesses in Falls Canyon.

Plants and Animals

Catalina is home to over 400 species of plants. 6 plant species are indigenous to the island and found nowhere else in the world. Catalina has a buffalo herd that is kept at 200 animals. The rest are shipped to the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota.

Island foxes now number about 400 after being reduced from 1200 to 100 in 1999 by a disease called canine distemper.

There are many other species of animals on the island including Bald Eagles. 9 species of animals including 2 species of mice and a species of ground squirrel are only found on the island.


Over a million people a year visit the island. Most go to Avalon. Golf carts and bicycles are the main transportation. There is a 10 year waiting list to bring a truck or a car to the island. There are 5 campgrounds and 9 boating campgrounds. Bicycles can be rented but you need a license which is $20 for 2 days or $60 for a year. If you want to get away from the crowds at Avalon, Two Harbors is the place.


Many movies and TV series have been filmed on the island. These include China Town and Airwolf. Ronald Reagan while at the island in 1936 took a screen test and became an actor and later he was a governor and later a US president.


Catalina is home to 2 marine institutes. There is the Catalina Island Marine Institute and The USC Wrigley Institute.

Catalina is a great place to go and relax. It is close to most of southern California and the costs are reasonable.

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I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s story. Before you go please be sure and check out our list of products on the right under our blogroll. Just click on any of the links that interest you and you will travel to that products website. Everyone have a safe and productive week and we will see you next week with a new adventure.