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Cabrillo National Monument


Cabrillo National Monument
©National Park Service
The Cabrillo National Monument commemorates
the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

The Ca­brillo National Monument is a memorial to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who, in 1542, set out in search of the island of California. Now known as the "Columbus of California", Rodriguez heard that the land was was inhabited by lusty Amazon women who carried swords of gold. He probably also dreamed of finding the Strait of Anian, a mythical water route from the Pacific through North America to the Atlantic.

Cabrillo's ships poked along the coast as far north as Oregon, but he didn't find the strait. He did, however, land in California, becoming the first European to do so, and he took possession of the entire coast for the King of Spain.

Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the Portuguese explorer near where he arrived on Point Loma. The visitor center, with a larger-than-life statue of Cabrillo nearby, has displays about the explorer and his expedition.

Before Cabrillo arrived, Digueno Indians lived on Point Loma. A walk along the Bayside Trail introduces visitors to some of the plants (yucca and sage) and animals (rabbits, squirrels, and others) that they used for food, clothing, and shelter.

The monument also includes the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, built between 1851 and 1855. Workers used sandstone from the hillside for the walls and old floor tiles from the ruins of an abandoned Spanish fort. An elaborate iron and brass structure held the light, which had been imported from France and used state-of-the-art technology. The lighthouse guided sailors into the harbor until 1891, when it was closed because fog and low clouds too often obscured its light. It has been refurbished and is open to the public.

One thing that has remained constant here is the rich sea life. On the western side of Point Loma, tidepools are alive with sea anemones, limpets, starfish, crabs, and hundreds more species of plants and animals. Each year, from late December to the end of February, thousands of California Gray Whales migrate past the site of the monument, as they have for countless centuries.

Cabrillo National Monument Information

Address: 1800 Cabrillo National Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
Telephone: 619/557-5450
Hours of Operation: Open daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Bayside Trail closes at 4 p.m.
Admission: $5 per vehicle or $3 per person

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.

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