Catalina Island
33░22'.N - 118░22'W
Catalina Island, California USA

History:  At the time the island was "discovered" in 1542 by Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo, who named it San Salvador in honor his flagship, the island was home to the the Gabrielino Indians who, like their cousins, the Chumash on other Channel Islands, had established villages in the valleys of the island.  The island was "rediscovered" 50 years later by General Sabastian Viscanio who anchored in what is now Avalon Bay and renamed it after Saint Catherine, thus Santa Catalina.


For the next few hundred years, the island was home to pirates, fur traders, ranchers, miners, bootleggers and adventurers.  Some say there is still buried treasure on the island.  There was even a military base set up at the Isthmus during the Civil War to guard against gun runners and pirates and a visit to the remaining buildings is a good little stroll from the harbor.

The island has a long history of private ownership including Thomas Robbins who was granted ownership by the Mexican governor in 1846, the Bannings and the Wrigleys. In 1919, William Wrigley Jr.'s purchase of the Island brought the Wrigley Mansion, the Wrigley Memorial and the Chicago Cubs to Catalina.  The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy now owns and operates most of the island except for the City of Avalon.  Visit Avalon in the 30's!

Physical Characteristics:  The island is 18 1/2 miles long from the Northwest end to the Southeast tip.  It is 7 miles wide from Long Point to Ben Weston Point.  It is made up of many rugged peaks and canyons, the highest peak at 2,125 feet above sea level.  From a distance it can appear as two islands because of the canyon at Two Harbors that separates them by only a half mile.  Much of the island has sheer cliffs and the water drops off to great depths immediately offshore.

Avalon Botanical GardenFlora & Fauna: Each visitor to the island has brought some exotic spice, herb or other plant which has become a part of the unique vegetation native to Catalina including mint, wild pepper, dill, anise, lemon grass, prickly pear, wild grains, fruits and berries like the Catalina Cherry.

Wildlife on the Island is varied and has fluxuated with the current society's environmental attitudes.  Dove, quail, wild turkey, wild boar, deer, fox, goats and bison have all been sighted at one time or another.   The buffalo are the offspring of 14 brought over in 1924 for use in the film, "The Vanishing American".   They didn't and can now be seen wandering around the hills, shaking their massive heads at the two-legged creatures that sip on that stuff called "Buffalo Milk" at the Isthmus bar.

There are a number of fun and informative places to visit on the island to learn more about the history, plants and animals that make up Catalina. Check out the Things to Do pages for Avalon and Isthmus Harbor to find out about some of them.

 

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