Catalina Island Hike and Kayak
Santa Catalina Island is a rocky island off the coast of the U.S. state
of California. The island is 22 miles long and eight miles across at its
greatest width. The island is located about 22 miles south-southwest of
Los Angeles, California. The highest point on the island is 2097 ft. Mt.
Orizaba. Part of the Channel Islands of California archipelago, Catalina
falls under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County. Most of the island
is owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy. The total population as of
the 2000 census was 3,696 persons with almost 85 percent living in its
only city of Avalon (pop. 3,127, with another 195 south of the city
outside of the city limits). The second center of population is the
unincorporated town of Two Harbors, in the north, with a population of
298. Development occurs also at the smaller settlements Rancho Escondido
and Middle Ranch. The remaining population is scattered over the island
between the two population centers.
There's a reason Catalina Island has been said to have "the perfect
climate." Catalina boasts a year-round Mediterranean climate, with warm,
sunny days and cool evening breezes. In the summer, the average
temperature is 75 degrees, while the mild winter average temperature is
65 degrees. The sun shines an average of 267 days a year, and the
average rainfall is 14 inches per year.
Max Air 63 62
Min Air 49 48
The island is very rich in quartz, to the point that some beaches on the
seaward side have silvery-grey sand. Catalina is primarily composed of
two distinct rock units, Catalina Schist from the Cretaceous and
volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks from the Tertiary period.
About 400 species of native plants grow on the island. Six species,
subspecies or varieties are endemic and can be found only on Catalina
Island. These plants are: Catalina Manzanita, Catalina mahogany,
Catalina Dudleya, St. Catherine’s lace, Santa Catalina bedstraw, and
Santa Catalina Island ironwood. These plants may be seen at the island's
Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens and the newly remodeled Golf
Gardens miniature golf course.
The island is home to five native land mammals: the Island Fox
subspecies of California Ground Squirrel, the Santa Catalina Island
Harvest Mouse, the Santa Catalina Island Deer Mouse, and the Ornate
Shrew. Only one Ornate Shrew was ever found, from a now-developed spring
area above Avalon. Shrews are difficult to capture and may survive in
wetter areas of the island. Sea otters are now extinct on Santa Catalina
Island and surrounding waters because of the effects of the Aleut hunts.
These brutal hunts took place for months in the 19th century, with the
slaughtering of close to one hundred otters per night. Today, the only
substantial population of sea otters in the area is off the northern
The Island Fox is an endangered endemic species. In 1999, all but 100
out of 1,300 foxes on Catalina Island were wiped out because of a
virulent strain of canine distemper. Following a successful recovery
program which included captive breeding, distemper vaccinations and
population monitoring, the Catalina fox community has been restored to
more than 400 individuals—a number deemed by the Conservancy scientists
to be a self-sufficient population. However, mysterious, usually fatal
ear tumors continue to plague the Catalina fox. Three Catalina Island
Conservancy wildlife biologists continue to monitor the population
through pit tagging, trapping and inspection.
The Conservancy is also working to restore bald eagles to the island,
with several chicks hatching in 2007. These would edge out an invasive
golden eagle population that threatens the native Island Fox. DDT, which
was used before as a pesticide, softened the shell of the egg, which
made it harder for the egg to reach its hatching.
The island has been home to a population of approximately 150 American
bison since 1924. Originally, fourteen bison were brought to the island
for the filming of the movie The Vanishing American, though the scenes
with the bison in them did not make it into the final cut of the film.
Due to cost overruns, the film company decided to leave the bison on the
island instead of bringing them back to the mainland.
In the waters surrounding the island, there are schools of fish like
garibaldi, Yellowtail, Kelp Bass, White sea bass, Giant sea bass,
Leopard sharks, blacksmiths, opal eyes, sheep heads, ling cods, bat
rays, horn sharks, mackerel, bonito, barracuda, herring, anchovies,
sardines, and many more.
Santa Catalina Island has served as the location for the filming of over
500 motion pictures, documentaries, television programs and commercials
over the past 90 years. Of those 500, approximately 300 were
motion picture productions. Beginning as early as 1911 and
continuing with great momentum through the Silent Film era and the
introduction of sound to motion pictures, the Island served as location
for more than 225 films.
Many famous actors and celebrities were spotted on the Island and off
the coast in their palatial yachts. The Hotel St. Catherine ran a
weekly column in the local newspaper called “Lobbying at the Hotel St.
Catherine.” Each week, Harry Grattan, proprietor of the St.
Catherine’s gift shop, would report his celebrity sightings.
Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Joe Schenck, Betty Grable,
Norma Shearer, Irving Thalberg, Richard Arlen and Johnny Weismuller were
all frequent visitors. Many celebrities and actors worked and played on
Catalina during the 1930s. Some developed life-long love affairs
with the Island and its surrounding waters. Charlie Chaplin and
his wife Paulette Goddard were frequent visitors and loved angling for
marlin and tuna around the Island. James Cagney and his wife were
known to anchor their yacht Marian in Descanso Bay. Cecil B. De
Mille, a prominent film director who filmed at least three pictures on
the Island was quoted in The Catalina Islander as saying that Catalina
is “the only place where I can get away to work amid real inspiration.”
Another interesting and lasting impression of this unique history was
the introduction of the North American Bison to the Island.
Many believe that the bison were brought to the Island for the
production of The Vanishing American, the film version of Zane Grey’s
classic novel, released by the Lasky Film Corporation in 1925.
However, in watching the film it appears that it was not filmed on
Catalina Island. Perhaps the Island scenes ended up on the cutting
room floor, but nonetheless a herd of North American Bison has been
roaming the hills of Catalina since December of 1924. The
introduction of sound to motion pictures ushered in a new era of film
production for Hollywood and Catalina Island. The Island continued
to be a prime location for many of Hollywood’s best filmmakers.
One of the first “talkie” movies filmed on the Island was Condemned
starring Ronald Colman in 1929. The following years saw such
classic films as Island of Lost Souls (1932), Rain (1932), Treasure
Island (1933), Captain Blood (1935), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), and
Captains Courageous (1937) being filmed on the Island. The
frequency of filming on the Island during this period introduced several
of Hollywood’s screen favorites to the charms of Santa Catalina.