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Point Lobos State Marine Reserve

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Title: Point Lobos State Marine Reserve  
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Subject: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area
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Point Lobos State Marine Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Location Monterey County, California, United States
Nearest city Carmel-by-the-Sea

36°31′1.56″N 121°56′33.36″W / 36.5171000°N 121.9426000°W / 36.5171000; -121.9426000Coordinates: 36°31′1.56″N 121°56′33.36″W / 36.5171000°N 121.9426000°W / 36.5171000; -121.9426000

Governing body California Department of Parks and Recreation

Point Lobos is the common name for the area including Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and two adjoining marine protected areas: Point Lobos State Marine Reserve (SMR) and Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). Point Lobos is just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, United States, at the north end of the Big Sur coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Point Lobos contains a number of hiking trails, many next to the ocean, and a smaller number of beaches. It is the site of a historic marine reserve, which was expanded in 2007. It is also the home to a museum on whaling, which includes a historic building once used by area fishermen. The longstanding wildlife protection and scenic seascape have led to Point Lobos' reputation as an unparalleled local recreational scuba diving destination. The park's origins lie in the purchase of a large parcel of land in 1933 from engineer Alexander Allan. Alexander Allan himself bought the land to prevent it from being developed. The land that now makes up Point Lobos Natural Reserve was set up to be subdivided into 1000 lots under the name of "Carmelito."

Geography and natural features

The iconic Point Lobos area is geologically unique and contains a rich and diverse plant and animal life both on shore and in the water. Called the "greatest meeting of land and water in the world" by landscape artist Francis McComas, Point Lobos is considered a crown jewel in the California state park system. The geological history of Point Lobos describes the rocks that create the headlands and inlets that make Point Lobos famous.

Carmel submarine canyon lies just north of Point Lobos. Like Monterey Canyon to the north the canyon provides cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface during upwelling events. These nutrient rich waters fuel the high primary productivity seen in Carmel and Monterey Bays, which in turn support the high diversity of life observed in the water and on land at Point Lobos.

Navigation is limited by Mile Rocks, a low shelf that is only sometimes above the surface. These rocks are at the bottom of the Point Lobos cliffs. In February, 1901, a passenger ship, City of Rio de Janeiro ran aground with 210 passengers aboard ran aground. Only 82 were saved.

As a result, great efforts were made to build a lighthouse on the rocks. Completed in 1906, the structure was well within sight of land, but was isolated by the dangerous waters. In 1965, the lighthouse was replaced by an unmanned beacon. It was demolished and only its base, now a helicopter pad, remains.[1]

Marine Protected Areas

The original Point Lobos Ecological Reserve was created in 1973. As one of California's most well known and longstanding no-take reserve, Point Lobos became a hotspot for non-consumptive recreational diving known for its large and diverse fish populations.

In 2007, the Ecological Reserve was expanded and renamed with the establishment of The Point Lobos SMR and Point Lobos SMCA by the California Department of Fish and Game. They were two of 29 marine protected areas adopted during the first phase of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, a collaborative public process to create a statewide network of marine protected areas along the California coastline.

State Marine Reserve

Point Lobos SMR covers 5.36 square miles.[2] The SMR protects all marine life within its boundaries. Fishing and take of all living marine resources is prohibited.[3] The marine reserve is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:[4]

  • 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 55.55’ W. long.;
  • 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.;
  • 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.; and
  • 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 121° 56.30’ W. long.

State Marine Conservation Area

Point Lobos SMCA covers 8.83 square miles.[2] Harvest of all living marine resources is prohibited in the conservation area except the recreational and commercial take of salmon, albacore, and the commercial take of spot prawn.[3] The area is bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed except where noted:[4]

  • 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.;
  • 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 122° 01.30’ W. long.; thence southward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to
  • 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 122° 00.55’ W. long.;
  • 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.; and
  • 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.

Habitat and wildlife

The Point Lobos marine protected areas provide shelter to a wide range of fish, invertebrates, birds, and marine mammals, from those that rely on the near-shore kelp forest to those that inhabit the deep waters of the Carmel Submarine Canyon.[5]

Point Lobos is one of only two places where the Monterey Cypress can be found in the wild.[6] The waters around Point Lobos contain extensive kelp forests.

Whaler's Cabin Museum

Point Lobos features a building constructed in the 1850s to house Japanese and Chinese fishermen. This building has been preserved, and now houses a museum dedicated to cultural history of the area. Shore whaling was conducted here by the Carmel Whaling Company from 1862 to 1884 and by the Japanese Whaling Company from 1898 to 1900.[7] The museum also highlights the history of Point Lobos, including its cinematic appearances and plans at the turn of the 20th century to develop the area for densely packed suburban housing.


Point Lobos State Natural Reserve offers outstanding coastal scenery, hiking trails, and dive sites. The adjacent marine protected areas provide ample opportunities for scuba diving.

California's marine protected areas encourage recreational and educational uses of the ocean.[8] Activities such as kayaking, diving, snorkeling and swimming are allowed unless otherwise restricted.

Scientific monitoring

As specified by the Marine Life Protection Act, select marine protected areas along California's central coast are being monitored by scientists to track their effectiveness and learn more about ocean health. Similar studies in marine protected areas located off of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands have already detected gradual improvements in fish size and number.[9]


At the county level, Point Lobos is represented on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Dave Potter .[10] In the California State Assembly, Point Lobos is represented by Bill Monning as part of the 27th Assembly district.[11] In the State Senate, Point Lobos is represented by Sam Blakeslee as part of the 15th State Senate district.[12] In the U.S. House of Representatives, Point Lobos is part of California's 17th congressional district, represented by Sam Farr.[13]

See also


External links

  • website
  • Things to do at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
  • Point Lobos tourism information — from the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
  • Marine Life Protection Act Initiative
  • CalOceans
  • Point Lobos State Reserve description, map, photographs, QuickTime Virtual Reality-QTVR.
  • Point Lobos and the Battle of Sea and Land

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