Fifty years after Columbus arrived in America, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, commanded 3 vessels on an expedition north from Mexico to claim land for Spain, discover a route to Asia, chart the the coast ad search for gold. He entered the harbor and landed in what is now San Diego in 1542 making him the first European to arrive on the West Coast of the U.S. Cabrillo died in 1543 after being injured in a fight with Chumash Indians on one of the Channel Islands. His expedition continued and claimed over 800 miles of coastline for Spain.
We began our visit at the Visitors Center where there is a gift shop and observation decks. There are amazing view of the large natural harbor from here, Point Loma.
There are is also a theatre where videos are shown (see schedule in Visitor Center) and an exhibit area in a nearby building. The San Salvador, Cabrillo's flagship, was a 100' full-rigged galleon with a 22' beam and 10' draft. It carried 100 crewman, 30 seamen, 25 soldiers, a priest, servants, slaves and a few merchants. There were also displays on the soldiers of the era and the navigational tools used at the time.
The Kumeyaay Indians were indigenous to the region and met Cabrillo and his men when they landed. Although there had been fighting inland between the Spanish and Americans, Cabrillo assured peaceful relations with the Kumeyaay. Some Indian artifacts were also on display.
Sculptor Alvaro de Bree (Portuguese) created the 14' sandstone statue of Cabrillo for the San Francisco 1939 World's Fair. It was subsequently brought to Loma Point. The original statue eroded and an exact replica replaced it in 1988.
San Diego is home to part of the Navy's Pacific Fleet and many shore-based naval facilities. From Point Loma you can see many Naval ships (really impressive!), the submarine base of operations, as well as pleasure and commercial craft.
Located over 400' above sea level, Point Loma Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in San Diego and operated from 1855 to 1891. A replacement lighthouse was built in 1891 and built at a lower level as the original one was sometimes obscured by fog.
Exhibits can be found in both the light house (where the keeper lived) and the assistant keeper's quarters house.
The light from the original lighthouse could be seen for 30 miles out to see. The light below is the 3rd Order Fresnel light of the "new" Point Loma Lighthouse (1891-1997).
On a clear day, you can see the off shore Kelp Forest and sometimes migrating whales from this location.
There are several hiking trails around the park. This one led to a building used by the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII to protect the area from a Japanese attack.
The rocky intertidal zone along the coast is also part of the Cabrillo National Monument. It is one of the few remaining Coastal Mediterranean Ecosystem strands. The best time to visit is during low tide in the winter months (when low tide occurs during the day).
Marine plants and animals are submerged during high tide and exposed to sun and wind during low ties. Here, the waves slam against the cliffs during high tide. We had checked the tidal timetable to figure out the best time to visit today. Be sure to bring appropriate footwear to slosh through the cold water of the Pacific here.
Below are some of the wildlife we saw: a sea anemone, periwinkle snails, and goose-necked barnacles. There were also lots of crabs, but I was not able to get a photo of these fast-moving critters.
Here are a few more shots of this fascinating habitat.
There is very little parking near the tidal pools (and we saw a park ranger issuing tickets to those parked illegally). Some folks hike down to the coast from the light house to avoid this problem. Basically, you need to wait for a car to leave and then grab their space during busy times.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a small portion of Point Loma as the Cabrillo National Monument in 1913. It was subsequently expanded and now covers 160 acres.
As always, we thoroughly really enjoyed the history, expansive views, and tidal pool habitat found here. The entrance fee is $10/vehicle (our National Park Senior Pass got us in for free).