The seaside community of Point Loma on the hilly Point Loma peninsula is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and south and the San Diego Bay on the east. It's the site of the first European landing along the California coast and originally was named La Punta de la Loma de San Diego, or Hill Point of San Diego.
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator, discovered the peninsula in 1542 when exploring for Spain. A monument, statue, and the Cabrillo National Monument park honor the navigator. Every October, the Cabrillo Festival Open House includes a reenactment of Cabrillo's encampment among other activities.
Cabrillo may have landed at Ballast Point at the location of the old lighthouse. Named because ships unloaded and loaded ballast there, Ballast Point became home for Fort Guijarros and is now the location for Naval Base Point Loma. Two other military bases, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and the Naval Training Center San Diego, also were located in Point Loma at one time.
Artillery batteries from the former military bases can be seen from walking trails at the Cabrillo National Monument. Another exhibit displays Point Loma's military history. On the fourth Saturday of each month, visitors can view a fully restored World War II bunker.
The Cabrillo National Monument covers 140 acres and includes tide pools and the old lighthouse. The tide pools at the park's southern end provide habitats for a large variety of plants and animals. The marine life in each pool depends on its distance from the shore.
Tide pools nearest the shore, in the splash zone, are completely exposed during low tide and close to the edge of the water during high tide. Small invertebrates including lined shore crabs, acorn barnacles, periwinkle snails, various limpets, and troglodyte chitons inhabit these pools.
Halfway out, in the intertidal zone, the pools are fully exposed during low tide and fully covered during high tide creating two very different environments. When the tide is low, snails, crabs, lobsters, California mussels, California sea hares, limpets, aggregating anemones, chitons, and fish intermingle in these pools.
The area beyond the intertidal zone, which is not exposed by low tide, is the subtidal zone. Larger forms of marine life, such as fish, sea stars, sea urchins, and plants, dwell in this zone. The plants provide food and shelter from predators and currents.
Low tide occurs during daylight in the fall and winter making these the best seasons for a visit.
The largest species of marine life are the gray whales. The Whale Overlook station offers views of these whales during their annual 12,000-mile southern migration from December through March. Over 20,000 whales migrate south from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic Ocean on their way to Baja California. The whales generally swim at least three-quarters of a mile away from the shore moving at about five miles per hour.
There are several things to look for when whale watching.
When whales exhale, they create a five-second blow or spout that can be up to 15 feet high. Whales spout three to five times before diving and then reappear in three to six minutes a little farther south. Just before diving, whales flip their tails in the air. You may spot a whale's back above the water. If you are fortunate, you may see a whale leap out of the water.
Every year at the end of January or beginning of February, Cabrillo National Monument holds a Whale Watch Weekend and Intertidal Festival.
The old Point Loma Lighthouse was built in 1855 at 422 feet above sea level, the highest elevation in the park. That elevation worked against the lighthouse because low clouds and fog blocked the light. A new lighthouse at a lower level opened in 1891. The former lighthouse now houses a museum.
Other events held at Cabrillo National Monument holds include Founder's Day and Open Tower Day. The latter event commemorates the old lighthouse and visitors are allowed to visit the tower. Also worth visiting are the plaques near the entrance of Cabrillo National Monument detailing Point Loma's contribution to soaring. Many records have been set here.
If you are lucky enough to live in Point Loma, where you can experience all of the activities at the Cabrillo National Monument, let Lawn Love handle your lawn maintenance and free you to spend more time at the park with your family.