Morro Bay (Cal­i­for­nia)

Sit­ting on the dock of the bay

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents - Story & Pho­tos by David Lee

The grey craggy dome of Morro rock pro­trudes from the blue wa­ter of the bay wel­com­ing you to this re­tire­ment and tourist des­ti­na­tion. The smell of salt, kelp, and tide flat bak­ing in the sun drifts on the breeze, and sea lions bark from a dock in the bay. This 175 m (576 ft) high vol­canic rock is the most northerly of the nine sis­ters, the pyra­mid shaped vol­canic plugs that formed some 20 mil­lion years ago. As you drive north on High­way 1 from San Luis Obispo ap­proach­ing Morro Bay, the nine sis­ters guard the sea­ward side of the road.

The town of Morro Bay was founded by Franklin Ri­ley in 1870 to ex­port prod­ucts from the ran­chos, and was es­tab­lished when Mex­ico con­trolled the coast. Ri­ley built the Em­bar­cadero, a wharf for sail­ing schooners to load the wool, pota­toes, bar­ley, and dairy prod­ucts. Morro Bay is the only all­weather, small craft, com­mer­cial, and recre­ational har­bour between Santa Bar­bara and Mon­terey. This small town has 10,000 per­ma­nent res­i­dents, but that can more than dou­ble in sum­mer with the ar­rival of tourists and in­te­rior res­i­dents es­cap­ing the heat.

The bay and the Em­bar­cadero are lined with shops and restau­rants, and it is the cen­ter of tourism. You can pur­chase t-shirts, sea ot­ter and sea lion stuffed animals, and all sorts of sou­venirs. Stop, sit back, and en­joy a seafood din­ner in one of the dozen restau­rants over­look­ing the bay, where the char­ter fish­ing, sight­see­ing boats, and multi coloured kayaks for hire line the docks.

The first Span­ish Galleons ar­rived at Morro Bay in 1587 and it was not un­til 1769 that the first Span­ish land ex­pe­di­tion ar­rived and with them the de­vel­op­ment of agri­cul­ture in­land from Morro bay. The Word Morro is com­mon to both Por­tuguese and Ital­ian, and means a rocky area with rounded rocks, thus Morro Bay was named.

Chu­mash In­di­ans were the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of the Morro Bay area, with an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 30,000 some 13,000 years ago. The har­vest of clams, abalone, and fish pro­vided them a good liv­ing. The ad­vanced de­sign of their boats al­lowed them to har­vest large fish, such as swordfish, and trade along the coast. They built sewn plank ves­sels that are found only on this part of the coast. The ves­sels are iden­ti­cal to the ves­sels of the Poly­ne­sians and it is be­lieved by ex­perts that they had con­tact with trav­ellers from those far off is­lands.

There are beaches, parks and hik­ing

trails to ex­plore and dozens of events all year around, in­clud­ing car shows, art ex­hibits, and na­ture trips. Plan your visit around a favourite ac­tiv­ity by re­view­ing the events on www.mor­robay.org. Morro Rock was des­ig­nated an his­toric site in 1968, and is a pere­grine fal­con refuge that draws bird­ers from all over

the world. Na­ture lovers come to see the wildlife that fre­quents the bay. Sea lions, sea ot­ters, and pelicans are three of the most com­mon res­i­dents. The sea ot­ters feed and play in the kelp beds along the shore by Morro Rock. They for­age for sea urchins, small crabs, and shell­fish, within 3 m (20 ft) of the park­ing lot.

They are eas­ily ap­proached for some close-up photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. Sea ot­ters are cute crit­ters and it is fas­ci­nat­ing to watch their an­tics as they groom their coats and in­ter­act. Groom­ing keeps air in their thick coats, keep­ing them warm, and mak­ing them float like an­i­mated corks. Sea ot­ters prey on urchin pop­u­la­tions, which will grow out of con­trol and dam­age the kelp they feed on. With­out sea ot­ters, urchins can de­stroy kelp beds, which in turn hurts the fish and other animals that shel­ter in the kelp beds. You will see the ot­ters wrap kelp around their bod­ies to an­chor them in place so they can sleep with­out drift­ing away.

En­joy an early morn­ing walk on the Em­bar­cadero - the beauty of the bay is stun­ning as the fog starts to lift and the sun hits Morro Rock. Fish­er­men cast their lines from a nar­row dock ex­tend­ing from pil­ings out into the har­bour while the seag­ulls sit nearby hop­ing to steal bait from their bait buck­ets. Un­der the dock on the rocks in the sun, two sea lions al­most within touch­ing dis­tance are snor­ing away, undis­turbed by the fish­er­men, or the walk­ers and jog­gers out for morn­ing ex­er­cise. The har­bour comes to life as the fog lifts and the small com­mer­cial fish­ing fleet pre­pares to head out be­yond the break­wa­ter into the open ocean to fish for sole, rock­fish, hal­ibut, and al­ba­core.

Morro Bay is a quiet town where you can get close to wildlife, deeply in­hale the sea air, cap­ture pho­tos of Morro Rock at sun­rise, and the sun­set over the ocean.

The lyrics of Otis Red­ding seem fit­ting when I think of our visit to Morro Bay “sit­ting on the dock of the bay, watch­ing the tide roll away.”

Morro Bay State park takes RV’s up to 35 feet and you can make reser­va­tions up to 7 months in ad­vance on the web­site. Re­serve early as this is a very pop­u­lar stop. www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=594

The fish­ing dock at Mor­row Bay and the fog lift­ing over Morro Rock.

The Drive north from Morro Bay- Mon­teray Pen­nisula in the dis­tance.

All wrapped up- Sea ot­ters an­chor to the kelp so they don't drift away while sleep­ing.

Sea gull hop­ing to steal some bait from fish­er­man on the dock.

Em­bar­cadero moor­age for the char­ter and fish­ing boats.

Sea lion sleep un­der the dock on the break­wa­ter.

Fish­ing boats on the Em­bar­cadero.

Pelicans preen­ing and fish­ing on the tide flats of Morro Bay.

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