Morro Bay, California 2020

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Morro Bay is a vacationer’s paradise. This laid-back town offers a refreshing coastal retreat with its breathtaking beauty and outdoor activities. The quaint seaside town is also home to many wildlife, including peregrine falcons.

Geography and climate of Morro Bay

Winter anchorage in Morro Bay, California.

Morro Bay is a small seaside town located in San Luis Obispo County, on the central coast of the US state of California. Morro Bay is also the name of the huge estuary that runs along the northern shores of the bay. Estero Bay, which includes the towns of Cayucos and Los Osos, is the largest bay on which the local area sits. Morro Bay is located on Highway 1, approximately 20 km northwest of the city of San Luis Obispo. The Los Osos stream flows into Morro Bay. The small seaside town covers a total area of ​​26.74 km2, of which 13.80 km2 is occupied by land and 12.94 km2 by water.

Morro Bay has a mild, warm Mediterranean climate characteristic of coastal California, with dry, hot summers and mild, wet winters. The city’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean contributes to moderate temperatures and produces a generally mild climate year-round, resulting in warmer winters and cooler summers. Throughout the year, the temperature typically ranges from 44°F to 74°F, with temperatures rarely dropping below 37°F or exceeding 83°F. According to the Tourism Score, the ideal time of year for visit Morro Bay for summer activities is from late June to late September.

History of Morro Bay

Morro Bay State Park Natural History Museum in Morro Bay, California
Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History in Morro Bay, California. Image credit: Teddy Llovet via Wikimedia Commons.

Morro Bay’s history dates back to the Chumash settlement near the mouth of Morro Creek. The most important rock in the bay was called “El Moro” by the Portuguese sailor Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. This may be because the rock looked like a Moorish hat or because it was shaped like a a “morro”, the Spanish word for pebble. On October 18, 1587, the first Filipinos reported to enter America arrived in Morro Bay from the Spanish fleet. Nuestra Seora de la Esperanza, one of whom was killed by local Native Americans while scouting inland. While the region was ruled by Mexico, massive land grants divided it into cattle and dairy ranches. These ranches need ships to transport dry goods and crops, livestock and other agricultural products to the towns. Franklin Riley founded Morro Bay in 1870 as a ranch and dairy export port. He played a crucial role in building the wharf that is now known as the Embarcadero. Schooners were seen frequently at the Embarcadero in the 1870s, bringing in wool, potatoes, barley, and dairy products. Morro Bay had an abalone fishing industry in the 1940s. It peaked in 1957 and abalone stocks dropped dramatically due to overfishing. Commercial and recreational vessels continue to catch halibut, sole, redfish, albacore and various other species.

The population and economy of Morro Bay

Pier shops and parking lot facing Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California
Pier shops and parking lot facing Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California. Editorial credit: shuttersv / Shutterstock.com

According to the last US census, Morro Bay has a population of 10,495. Morro Bay’s population is now declining at a rate of -0.15% per year, but has increased by 2.45% since the 2010 census, which reported a population of 10,244. The racial makeup of Morro Bay is 85.74% White, 5.49% Asian, 4.72% Two+, 3.73% from other races, 0.24% Native American, and 0.08 % black or African American. Tourism is the city’s most important industry, along with commercial fishing. Various tourist attractions, including restaurants, shops, and parks, can be found along the shoreline and nearby streets, especially the Embarcadero.

Attractions in Morro Bay

Morro Rock

Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California
Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California.

Morro Rock is believed to have formed around 23 million years ago from eruptions of long-extinct volcanoes. Morro Rock has been an essential navigational aid to sailors for nearly 300 years due to its height of approximately 576 feet, making it the most visible of a chain of nine peaks. In 1542 the Portuguese adventurer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named the rock “El Morró”. Morro is a crown-shaped hill in Spanish. Morro Rock, also known as “Gibraltar of the Pacific”, is the final peak of the Nine Sisters, which stretches from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay. The rock was quarried intermittently until 1963. Morro Rock provided material for breakwaters at Morro Bay and Port San Luis Harbour. Legislation was introduced in 1966 that granted full title to the State of California. The Morro Rock was later designated as a California Registered Historic Landmark. Morro Rock was designated a State Landmark in 1968. The rock is now a bird sanctuary for the peregrine falcon and other bird species.

Morro Bay Harbor

View of Morro Bay and boats in the harbor on a sunny day.
View of Morro Bay and boats in the harbor on a sunny day. Editorial Credit: NaughtyNut / Shutterstock.com

Morro Bay is a natural enclave with an artificial harbor built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Between Santa Barbara and Monterey, it is the only all-weather small craft commercial and recreational port. Morro Rock was initially surrounded by water, but the army built a vast man-made breakwater and a road across the northern end of the harbour, linking Morro Rock to the mainland. Most of the rocks used for this and the breakwaters built came from Morro Rock. Other rocks were brought by ship from Catalina Island. The bay extends inland and parallels the shore for about 6.4 kilometers south of its entrance at Morro Rock. The California Bays and Estuaries Policy has designated Morro Bay for protection. Only small boats are able to cross the harbor channel. The harbor is protected from the Pacific Ocean to the west by a wide natural sand spit reinforced by breakwaters. The ruins of a bridge connecting the shore to the sand spit can be seen at its northern end.

Marine protected areas

Marbled godwit on a beach in Morro Bay, California.
Marbled godwit on a beach in Morro Bay, California.

Morro Rock symbolizes the beginning of a place of refuge for local species that live in two marine protected areas along the estuary coastline. These protected waters are home to a variety of wildlife including the endangered southern sea otter, endangered tidal goby and the once endangered American peregrine falcon. Morro Bay State Marine Recreation Management Area and Morro Bay State Marine Reserve were added to the State of California Marine Protected Areas System in September 2007. These two marine protected areas cover approximately 3.3 square miles in total, including a large and abundant estuary essential to most of central California’s coastal plants and animals. The habitat is used by migratory birds that use the Pacific flyway, such as the black goose, which comes to feed on the native eelgrass. Double-crested cormorants, great egrets and great blue herons can be seen roosting and breeding in the surrounding trees and hunting for fish and small crustaceans between February and June.

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