The total population as of the 2000 census was 3,696 persons, with almost 85 percent living in its only city of Avalon (pop. 3,127, with another 195 south of the city outside of the city limits). The second center of population is the unincorporated town of Two Harbors, in the north, with a population of 298. Development occurs also at the smaller settlements Rancho Escondido and Middle Ranch. The remaining population is scattered over the island between the two population centers. The island has an overall population density of 49.29/mi² (19.03/km²).
Prior to the modern era, the island was inhabited by people of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe, who, having had villages near present day San Pedro and Playa del Rey, regularly traveled back and forth to Catalina for trade. The Tongva called the island Pimu or Pimungna and referred to themselves as the Pimugnans. Chief Torqua was probably the last chief of the people of Santa Catalina for whom "Torqua Springs" is named after. These Pimugnans had settlements all over the island at one time or another, with their biggest villages, most likely, being at the Isthmus, and current day Avalon and Emerald Bay. The Gabrielino/Tongva are renowned for their mining, working and trade of soapstone which was found in great quantities and varieties on the island. This material was in great demand and was traded along the California coast and as far south as Baja California.
The first European to set foot on the island was Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailing for Spain. On October 7, 1542, he claimed the island for Spain and christened it San Salvador after his ship (Catalina has also been selected as one of the many possible burial sites for Cabrillo). Over half a century later, another Spanish explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, rediscovered the island on the eve of Saint Catherine's day (November 24) in 1602. He renamed it Santa Catalina to honor the feast day of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
During the next 300 years, the island served as home or base of operation for many visitors, including Russian otter hunters, Yankee smugglers and itinerant fishermen. Among these visitors, the Aleuts of Russian Alaska probably had the largest effect on the island and its people. These otter-hunters from the Aleutian Islands set up camps on Santa Catalina, and the surrounding Channel Islands, trading with the native peoples in exchange for permission to hunt otters and seals around the island for their pelts. The Aleuts brought diseases to the natives of Santa Catalina Island, for which they had no immunity. This, ultimately, lead to the demise of the Pimugnan people. Although these hunters had been known to lead attacks on the native people of surrounding islands, such as the massacre that took place on San Nicolas Island, there is no evidence on this happening on Santa Catalina. (See Nicoleno). Sea otters are now extinct on Santa Catalina Island and surrounding waters due to the effect the Aleut hunts had on Santa Catalina's otter population. These brutal hunts took place for months, with the slaughtering of, close to, one hundred otters in one night. Today, the only substantial population of these sea otter is off of the northern Channel Islands. Smuggling also took place on the island for a long period of time. Pirates found that the abundance of hidden coves all over the island, in addition to its short distance to the mainland and scarce population, made it a perfect place for smuggling goods. Once used by smugglers of illegal Chinese, China Point, located on the south western end of Catalina, still bears its namesake.
Franciscan monks considered building a mission there, but abandoned the idea due to the lack of fresh water on the island. By the 1830s, the entire island's native population were either dead, or had migrated to the mainland to work in the missions or as ranch hands for the many private land owners. Today, there are no descendants left of the Tongva people of Santa Catalina Island.
The island experienced a brief gold rush in 1860s, but very little gold was actually found. In 1864, the federal government, fearing attempts to outfit privateers by Confederate sympathizers in the American Civil War, put an end to the mining by ordering everyone off the island. A small garrison of Union troops were stationed at the Isthmus on the island's west end for about nine months. Their barracks stand as the oldest structure on the island and is currently the home of the Isthmus Yacht Club.
By the end of 19th century, the island was almost uninhabited except for a few cattle herders. At that time, its location just from Los Angeles—the city that had reached the population of 50,000 in 1890 and was undergoing the period of enormous growth—was a major factor that contributed to the development of the island into a vacation destination.
The first owner to try to develop Avalon into a resort destination was George Shatto, a real estate speculator from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who purchased the island for $200,000 at the height of the real estate boom in Southern California in 1887. Shatto created the settlement that would become Avalon, and can be credited with building the town's first hotel, the original Hotel Metropole, and pier. His sister-in-law Etta Whitney came up with the name Avalon, which was pulled as a reference from Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem "Idylls of the King," which was about the legend of King Arthur. He laid out Avalon's streets, and introduced it as a vacation destination to the general public. He did this by hosting a real estate auction in Avalon in 1887, and purchasing a steamer ship for daily access to the island. In the summer of 1888, the small pioneer village kicked off its opening season as a booming little resort town. Despite Shatto's efforts, in a few years he had to default on his loan and the island went back to the Lick estate.
The sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891 from the estate of James Lick and established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop it as a resort. The Banning brothers fulfilled Shatto's dream of making Avalon a resort community. They built a dance pavilion in the center of town, made additions to the Hotel Metropole and steamer-wharf, built an aquarium, created the Pilgrim Club (a gambling club for men only), improved the standard of Avalon's beach by erecting a sea-wall and adding "spoonholders" or covered benches, building a bath house, adding new steamships to the run, and setting up close to one hundred tents throughout Avalon's canyon (often called "tent cities"). These tents were created so that, if the expense of a hotel was too much, you could rent out a tent for as little as $7.50 per week, which was quite a bargain at the time. To this day, many homes in Avalon are still in possession of the same tents that stood in that spot over a century ago. Although the Banning's main focus was in Avalon, they also showed great interest in the rest of the island and wanted to introduce other parts of Catalina to the general public. They did this by paving the first dirt roads into the island's interior where they built hunting lodges and lead stagecoach tours, and by making Avalon's surrounding areas (Lovers Cove, Sugarloaf Point and Descanso Beach)accessible to tourists. They built two homes, one in Descanso Canyon, and the other in, what is now, Two Harbors, and it is now that village's only hotel. Just as the Bannings were anticipating the construction of a new, Hotel Saint Catherine, their efforts were set back on November 29, 1915, when a fire burned half of Avalon's buildings, including six hotels and several clubs. The Bannings refused to sell the island in hopes of rebuilding the town, starting with the Hotel Saint Catherine. The hotel would be located on Sugarloaf Point, the unique, picturesque, cliff bound peninsula at the north end of Avalon's harbor. It was blasted away to begin the construction of the hotel with its annex being in Descanso Canyon. These plans failed due to lack of funding and, in the end, the entire hotel was built in Descanso Canyon. The Bannings were in huge debt from the fire of 1915 and World War I also hampered tourism. The Banning brothers were forced to sell the island in 1919 in shares.
One share holder was chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. He was convinced to invest in Santa Catalina Island and, before his purchase, he traveled to Catalina with his wife, Ada, and son, Philip, and immediately fell in love with the island. He bought out every last share-holder until he owned all of Santa Catalina Island.
From 1927 through 1937, pottery and tile were made on the island at the Catalina Clay Products Company, and these items are now highly sought-after collectibles. The Chicago Cubs, also owned by Wrigley, used the island for the team's spring training from ca. 1921-1951, absent the war years of 1942-45.
During World War II, the island was closed to tourists and used for military training facilities. Catalina's steamships were expropriated for use as troop transports, the U.S. Maritime Service set up a training facility in Avalon, the Coast Guard had training at Two Harbors, the Army Signal Corp maintained a radar station in the interior, and the Office of Strategic Services (a precursor to the CIA) did training at Toyon Bay. Emerald Bay, on the Island's west end was used by the Navy.
Catalina's airport, the "Airport in the Sky" (AVX), was completed in 1946. The 3,250-foot (990 m) runway sits on a mountaintop, 1,602 feet (488 m) above sea level. Until the time of the airport's construction, the only air service to the island was provided by seaplanes.
In September of 1972, 26 members of the Brown Berets, a group of Chicano activists, sailed to the island and planted a Mexican flag, claiming the island for all Chicanos. They cited the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty, a treaty between Mexico and the USA by which Mexico sold more than half of its territory, and arguing that the treaty does not specifically mention the Channel Islands. The group camped outside of Avalon and were viewed as a new tourist attraction. Local Mexican-Americans provided them with food when they ran out of supplies. After 24 days a municipal judge asked them to leave and they did so peaceably, departing on the same tourist boat on which they had arrived.
Known shipwrecks in the waters off the island include the Diosa del Mar which was sunk July 30, 1990 near Ship Rock. The yacht Valiant burned and sunk a couple hundred yards out from Descanso Beach. It had about $75,000 worth of jewelry on board which has never been recovered. Dives are by harbormaster's permit only. The oldest shipwreck known on Santa Catalina Island is that of a Chinese smuggling ship off Ballast Point on the west side of the island.
William Wrigley, Jr., bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919 and devoted himself to preserving and promoting it, investing millions in needed infrastructure and attractions. In 1921 he sold lots for building in the town of Avalon.
In the 1920s, in an effort to generate tourism towards Catalina, Wrigley tried to convince Gertrude Ederle, who had just become famous as first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926, to swim from Catalina to the mainland which was roughly the same distance. She declined, so he launched the 1927 Wrigley Ocean Marathon: offering $25,000 to the first person to cross the channel, with $15,000 for the first finisher of "the fair sex." Out of a field of 102, only one man completed the swim, Canadian swimmer George Young, who finished 15 hours and 44 minutes after the start. The two women who came the closest were awarded $2,500 each.
The tourism industry was encouraged by the construction of a beautiful Art Deco dance hall, called the Casino, in 1929. The Casino was high when it was built and was the tallest building in Los Angeles County at the time. Surrounded by sea on three sides, the circular Art Deco structure stands the equivalent of 12 stories tall.
The Avalon Theater, on the first level, shows first-run movies nightly, and the theater's original Page Organ still plays before the show. The circular domed ceiling has remarkable acoustics studied by experts from around the world. The upper level houses the world's largest circular ballroom with a diameter dance floor. French doors encircle the room, and balcony views are spectacular.
The gorgeous Catalina Island Casino is a two million dollar "Palace of Pleasure" located midway between Hotel St. Catherine and the town of Avalon. It is the only building of its size in the world erected on a full circular plan. A mammoth motion picture theater is on the ground floor and, above, the world's largest circular ballroom.|The text of a postcard postmarked August 1947
Wrigley put in ramps instead of stairs, an idea taken from his Chicago Cubs stadium. The ramps allowed the large numbers of people using the ballroom to quickly move to and from their destinations without accident or injury.
The upstairs dance floor has a capacity of over 6,000 dancers, and sits above the glamorous Avalon Theater, which seats 1,150 and is the first ever designed specifically for sound movies. The upstairs dance floor is also used by the local high school basketball team making it one of the plushest and most expensive basketball courts ever.
The theater is so well-insulated that theater patrons cannot hear the band playing or the 6,000+ partying dancers on the floor above, yet the excellent acoustics are so good that a speaker on the theater stage can speak in a normal voice without a microphone and be heard clearly by everyone in the theater, including those in the back rows.
While the theater shows movies almost exclusively, it has the capabilities to host theatrical productions as well. The Casino's name derives from a more traditional Italian definition of casino, meaning social gathering place; the building has never served as a gambling establishment and for many years did not even serve alcoholic beverages.
In 1975, Philip Wrigley deeded the Wrigley shares in the Santa Catalina Island Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy that he had helped create. The Conservancy now stewards 88 percent of the island. The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation. So far, the successes include the opening of California's first permanent desalination plant in 1991.
Nelson said about 100 firefighters were battling the blaze and that another 200 new recruits, arriving by hovercraft and Marine helicopters, were bedding down at the airport to work the day shift in the morning. Catalina Express was also running extra boats through the night to take people off the island. 700 evacuees were reportedly at the César E. Chávez center in Long Beach.
The eCatalina.com newsletter reported on June 1, 2007, about the fire, "Fortunately, the fire that captured the attention of the nation did not cause any damage to the charm of the City of Avalon, the community of Two Harbors or the activities, shopping, tours, restaurants and accommodations our visitors enjoy. of interior chaparral burned sparing most wildlife, including the Catalina Island Fox, bald eagles and bison."
Among thousands of species of plants and animals, Catalina is home to 15 taxa found nowhere else.
These plants may be seen at the island's Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens.
The Conservancy is also working to restore bald eagles to the island, with several chicks hatching in 2007. These would edge out an invasive golden eagle population that threatens the native Island Fox. DDT, which was used before as a pesticide, softened the shell of the egg, which made it harder for the egg to reach its hatching.
In 2004, the Conservancy partnered with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Tongva (thought to be Catalina's original inhabitants some 7,000 years ago), and the Lakota tribe on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. A hundred bison were relocated "home" to the Great Plains. The Conservancy plans to pursue a similar plan when the bison population exceeds 200 individuals. Although the bison are not native to the island, they comprise an important role in the cultural fabric of Catalina. Therefore, the Conservancy has no plans to remove all the animals from the island.
The Island Fox is an endangered endemic species. In 1999, all but 100 out of 1,300 foxes on Catalina Island were wiped out due to a virulent strain of canine distemper. Following a successful recovery program which included captive breeding, distemper vaccinations and population monitoring, the Catalina fox community has been restored to more than 400 individuals—a number deemed by the Conservancy scientists to be a self-sufficient population. However, mysterious, usually fatal ear tumors continue to plague the Catalina fox. Three Catalina Island Conservancy wildlife biologists continue to monitor the population through pit tagging, trapping and inspection.
About a million tourists visit the island every year; Catalina is serviced by ferries and the "Airport in the Sky." Ferries depart from Orange County in Newport Beach and Dana Point, while they depart from Los Angeles County in Long Beach, San Pedro, and Marina del Rey. The trip takes approximately an hour and costs approx $65 round trip. Helicopter service is also available from Long Beach or San Pedro.
Most of the island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization. The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation. Through its ongoing efforts, the Conservancy protects the magnificent natural and cultural heritage of Santa Catalina Island, stewarding approximately 42,000 acres (170 km²) of land (88 percent of the island), 50 miles (80 km) of rugged shoreline, an airport, and more than of roads.
Under an agreement with Los Angeles County, the Conservancy has granted an easement to allow day hiking and mountain biking, but visitors must first obtain a permit at the Conservancy's office (on which they declare the parts of the island they intend to visit). Hiking permits are free, whereas bicycle permits are available for a fee (as of 2006, $60 per person annual, $20 per person good for 2 consecutive days, helmets and mountain bikes with knobby tires required).
The use of motor vehicles on the island is restricted; there is limit on the number of registered cars, which translates into a 10-year-long wait list to bring a car to the island. Most residents move around via golf cart. Tourists can hire a taxi from Catalina Transportation Services. Bicycles are also a popular mode of transportation. There are a number of bicycle and golf cart rental agencies on the island. Only the city of Avalon is open to the public without restrictions.
The only major road into the back country is Stage Road.
Glass bottom boats tour the reefs and shipwrecks of the area, and scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in the clear water. Lover's Cove, to the east of town, and Descanso Beach, to the west of the Casino, are popular places to dive. The area is famous for the schools of flyingfish and the bright orange Garibaldi which teem in local waters. Bus tours are given of the interior.
Two Harbors is the second, and much smaller, resort village on the island. Located at the isthmus of the island, north of Avalon, it is the primary landing spot for those who wish to tour the western half of the island. It is accessible by boat from San Pedro and by bus or boat from Avalon.
The Catalina Island Museum, located in the historic Casino Building, is also an attraction as it is the keeper of the island's cultural heritage with collections numbering over 100,000 items and including over 7,000 years of Native American history, over 10,000 photographs and images, a large collection of Catalina-made pottery and tile, ship models, and much more. The museum features dynamic exhibits on this history and also a unique gift store. Programs include walking tours of Avalon, classes for students, gallery docents, lectures, an annual silent film benefit and more.
The island contains another camp named Camp Fox, formerly operated by the YMCA of Glendale, which holds several summer coed youth camps, a summer girl's camp, as well as a Christian leadership conference in spring. As of 2007 Camp Fox also known as Fox Landing is currently owned by the Catalina Island Marine Institute. There is also Campus by the Sea, a camp operated by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, located at Gallagher's Cove.
There is also a coeducational camp at Howland's Landing named Catalina Island Camps, which has been there since the 1920s. Catalina Island Camps is home to many camps including Camp del Corazone, a camp for kids and counslers with heart disease or defects.
Guided Discoveries (Catalina Island Marine Institute) also runs several camps (Toyon Bay, Fox Landing, and Cherry Cove) on Catalina Island providing hands on opportunities to learn marine science (at Toyon Bay) and environmental studies to school groups and community groups during school year and sea camps during the summer.
Moonstone is another private cove operated by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club of Newport Beach, CA
Children in Avalon attend schools in the Long Beach Unified School District.
There are two schools on Catalina Island. Two Harbors is served by a one-room school house for grades K-5; students travel to Avalon for grades 6-12. Avalon schools are housed on one main campus that includes Avalon Elementary School, Avalon Middle School and Avalon High School. About a dozen children attend the Two Harbors school and about 800 students attend Avalon schools each year. Thousands of school-age youths travel from the mainland to study at the Catalina Island Marine Institute every year.
The USC Wrigley Institute research and teaching facilities at Two Harbors, maintained by the University of Southern California and named for Philip K. Wrigley, consist of a laboratory building, dormitory housing, cafeteria, a hyperbaric chamber, and a large waterfront staging area complete with dock, pier, helipad, and diving lockers. The facility was made possible by a generous donation from the Wrigley family.
Age and growth of two herbivorous, kelp forest fishes, the opaleye (Girella nigricans) and halfmoon (Medialuna californiensis).(Report)
Apr 01, 2011; Abstract. opaleye (Girella nigricans) and halfmoon (Medialuna californiensis) are herbivorous sea chubs (Perciformes:...
LONG BEACH SPORTFISHING (Berth 55) 52 anglers on 3 boats caught 1 barracuda, 105 calico bass, 11 rockfish, 3 whitefish, 18 sheepshead, 96 perch, 14 red snapper, 3 ling cod, 13 opaleye perch, 3 bonito.
May 12, 2005; REDONDO SPORTFISHING 27 anglers on 2 boats caught 1 ling cod, 143 assorted rockfish. 22ND STREET LANDING (San Pedro) 49 anglers...