|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
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
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
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.
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
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
Harbor to find out about some of them.