Where the Buffalo Roam On Catalina Island
As wonderful as the town of Avalon is, it is only a very small part of Catalina Island. For those who want to experience the “wild” side of the island, a journey into the island’s interior is a must.
Catalina Island’s interior, 88% of the island, is owned and managed by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. The interior is covered with broad valleys, isolated coves, pristine beaches, two thousand-foot peaks and near-vertical shoreline palisades and is home to thousands of species of unique native plants and animals. It is in the Conservancy lands that Catalina Island Fox, the Beechey Ground Squirrel, and Catalina Island Quail traverse the hills freely. These animals are endemic to Catalina and are found nowhere else in the world. Bald Eagles, which have been re-introduced to the island, soar above the coves. North American Bison, brought as movie “extras” in 1924, may also be seen and are very popular with visitors.
The Catalina Island Conservancy
In 1972, members of the Wrigley family established the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy as a private, non-profit organization dedicated solely to the conservation and preservation of Catalina Island. With more than 42,000 acres and 48 miles of coastline under its charge, the Conservancy’s legal mandate is to preserve the island’s native plants and animals, its biological communities and its geological and geographical formations of educational interest. Equally important, the conservancy also manages the island’s open space for controlled recreational purposes.
The Conservancy also owns and operates Catalina Island’s Airport-In-The-Sky, Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden, and the Nature Center. The Conservancy provides a ranger service both on land and along the shore to assist visitors and assure the security of the interior.
Hiking, Biking, and Camping
There are many options for exploring Catalina Island’s vast and beautiful interior, including sightseeing tours, Jeep Eco-tours, and shuttle buses to the Airport-In-The-Sky. For the more adventurous types, hiking, biking, and camping are fun choices.
A number of hiking trails allows hikers to explore Catalina’s interior. Due to rugged terrain, mountain bikes are required and riders must wear helmets.
Bicycle permits may be obtained at the Conservancy Office, 125 Claressa, 9:00am- 5:00pm daily (closed for lunch Saturday and Sunday). Permits are also available at Catalina’s Airport-in-the-Sky and Two Harbors Visitors Services during their regular hours of operation. Biking permits require a fee; hiking permits are free.
A shuttle bus service, from Avalon to Two Harbors, operates year-round and makes stops at campsites and trail heads in the interior.
Two Harbors is a rustic resort village located at Catalina Island’s isthmus, 23 miles by land or 14 miles by sea, west of Avalon. A popular destination for boaters, transportation to Two Harbors is also available from San Pedro, and bus service connects Avalon and Two Harbors.
Recreation opportunities at Two Harbors include hiking on ocean-view trails, snorkeling and scuba diving at nearby world-renowned sites, ocean kayaking among secret coves, mountain biking along ridge roads, pleasure boating or just plain relaxing on a sandy beach. There is one restaurant and one general store. The Banning House Lodge is the only hotel in Two Harbors, but there are a variety of camping options. Theme weekends and parties throughout the year offer fun-filled family activities.
For more information, contact Two Harbors Visitor Services at (888) 510-7979.
Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden
If you don’t have the time to venture into Catalina Island’s interior, a visit to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden in Avalon is a great alternative.
The Wrigley Memorial honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., who lived from 1861 to 1932. With its commanding view of Avalon Bay, the Wrigley Memorial is the centerpiece of the Botanical Garden. It was built in 1933-34 with the goal of using as much Catalina materials as possible.
The idea for a garden came from Mr. Wrigley’s wife, Ada. In 1935, she supervised Pasadena horticulturist Albert Conrad, who planted the original Desert Plant Collection. Santa Catalina Island’s temperate marine climate made it possible to showcase plants from every corner of the earth.
In 1969, the Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation expanded and revitalized the garden’s 37.85 acres. Along with the new plantings came a new attitude. In the same way that the Wrigley Memorial uses primarily native building materials, the Garden places a special emphasis on California island endemic plants. (Plants, which grow naturally on one or more of the California islands, but nowhere else in the world.) Many of these plants are extremely rare, and some are on the Endangered Species list.
In 1996, the Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation merged with the Catalina Island Conservancy. This was a natural combining of two important ecological organizations, both dedicated to the protection and restoration of Santa Catalina Island.
The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, year round. Adult admission is $3, children under 12 are free. It is located one and one-half miles up Avalon Canyon Road. The walk is pleasant, passing the Golf Course, the town’s ballpark, and the Hermit Gulch campground. Public transportation is also available.
For information about the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden, Catalina Island’s interior, or the Catalina Island Conservancy, call (310) 510-2595 or visit www.catalinaconservancy.org.