Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Devil's Slide

The western ridge of Montara Mountain sticks out into the sea just south of Pacifica and for most of the last century the road used to skirt the steep, unstable cliffs above the ocean. But increasingly frequent closures led to the opening, in 2013, of a tunnel that bypasses the worst of Devil's Slide.


The road is now closed to cars, but remains open to foot and bike traffic. At least until the next big slide.

The old bunker just south of Devil's Slide


The low bluff along this stretch of Half Moon Bay's coastline is gradually retreating - as bluffs do. As it does, it leaves this armored stretch of beach standing proud. The road and the houses remain, for the time being, but most the beach is gone - and tough to get to without walking around.

The photos provide a pretty good idea of what the original shoreline looked like and where it wants to go. Mirada Road will get awfully expensive to maintain over time. I suspect the cost is spread broadly, whereas the benefit is disproportionately small - at least that's the way it works on most developed shorelines.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Pelican Point Beach

I wasn't sure whether to title this post Pelican Point Beach or Miramontes Point, but the beach won out - because this is a blog about beaches more than it is a blog about big hotels perched on the edge of the sea.


I joined the small crowd of paying guests and riff raff (like me) wandering down to the beach south of the hotel. A stairway leads down to the beach itself - the lower landing was propped up on a small suite of jacks, suggesting that the riprap had settled a couple of feet (big rock often does this in settings like this - making it's use as a foundation dicey).

Note the use of both riff raff and riprap in the preceding paragraph - the terms are occasionally confused.

Maybe on a future visit, I'll walk north around the Point to Three Rocks Beach. I'd like to check out the efforts that have been made to maintain Miramontes Point for posterity.  I could see some of the structure from the top and found you get a better view (but still somewhat mysterious) from the air (Aerial: California Coastal Records Project).

A couple of notes on public access to the shoreline. The small parking lot at the top of the trail to the beach was full, but the woman at the Ritz-Carlton gatehouse pointed me to the sites in the garage reserved for coastal access. These things rarely happen without controversy or requirement (see below), but I definitely appreciate both that California has always taken public access seriously and that the resort is willing to cooperate.

Earlier, just a few miles south, I considered (but decided against) parking on Highway 1 and walking down to Martin's Beach, but wasn't sure of its current legal status. Turns out, just a couple of days earlier, the case had been appealed to the Supreme Court (The Guardian). I look forward to visiting Martin's Beach on a future trip.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


These photos are from Pescadero State Beach, just south of the mouth of Pescadero Creek (Gravel Beach: 2013).


Some of the beaches along this coastline are sandy right up to the toe of the bluff and some have nice cobble ramps like this one. To get cobble, you need a source of resistant rock - granite works better than the softer sediments that compose a bulk of these eroding bluffs and that yield only sand or finer stuff. I suppose even the completely sandy beaches may sometimes have cobble underneath, but I suspect the relative proportions of fine and coarse material vary significantly from one beach to the next. Of course, there are probably seasonal differences, too - typically we'd expect sandier in the summer, less sandy (and more exposed cobble) in the winter.

I think the sandpiper-like birds on the beach were indeed sandpipers. They seemed to spend as much time up near the edge of the cobble as they did down at the water's edge.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove, west of Santa Cruz, almost to Davenport, is a narrow bite carved out of the marine terrace - steep cliffs on both sides and a sandy pocket beach trapped in between. The shark fin (or tooth?) is a sea stack, left as the surrounding cliffs were eroded landward by the waves.


There's a neat little cave that frames the east side of the cove and some human artifacts, including a tunnel, at the head of the cove that suggest an interesting human history.

Some more info on Shark Fin Cove.

Santa Cruz

Some shots from a couple of weeks ago - a Friday evening and a chilly Saturday morning in Santa Cruz, before heading up the coast.


The photos are from several different spots on the west end of town. For a couple of posts from the east end, check out: Pleasure Point: July 2013 and Capitola: July 2013.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Point San Pablo

Point San Pablo is a little cut off from the rest of Richmond by rail lines, highways, and the big Chevron refinery, but some of it is accessible, including Point Molate Beach Park (no photos this trip). The end of the Point and the site of the old Red Rock warehouse on the north side are normally off limits, but we were able to visit them on last Saturday's field trip. 


The restoration work done to date involves the removal of the old overwater structure along with hundreds of creosote piles (BayNature). Eelgrass is being planted offshore and there's interest in improving other subtidal habitats as well. There are also plans to remove another large dilapidated structure at the tip of the Point.

Other than cleaning out much of the old debris, little has been done to restore the shoreline itself, which consists of a rubbly gravel beach backed by an eroding bank of fill and concrete slabs. It appears that much of the upland behind the beach may be fill, extending bayward from the old rocky bluff (where I suspect there may once have been a narrow beach). Carving back into that fill might provide opportunities for riparian vegetation, removal of more debris, and the creation of a more natural upper intertidal and backshore. One might even be able to create more beach - a future public amenity as well as an environmental one.

These last couple of pictures are taken on the south side of the Point, where there's a nice pocket beach and a lagoon (created by an old rail line) with a view of downtown San Francisco beyond the Richmond Bridge.

Monday, February 26, 2018

San Leandro Bay

My last post was three months ago - a fair (and sad) indication of the amount of time I've spent on the shore recently. Ironically, that previous post was from Oakland Beach, in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Ironic, because this post is also from Oakland, the one in California. This Oakland is not known for its beaches. Perhaps it was once known for its marshes, but those are now few and far between. They were either dredged to create channels or buried under the dredged material in order to create dry land for runways, highways, warehouses, and naval bases.

Arrowhead Marsh (San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais in the distance)
It was a short walk from the hotel to the MLK Regional Shoreline Park and Arrowhead Marsh, which are located on the southeastern end of San Leandro Bay, somewhere in between Oracle Arena and the Oakland Airport Rental Car facility.


This is not a beach, just a desperate effort to get back on the blog (although there will be a whole bunch of real beaches added in the next few days). There was a cold wind blowing straight down the dead end channel and I couldn't help think that a few wheelbarrows of gravel might make a pretty nice beach in these little coves. Unfortunately, in filled areas like this, the only gravel-size material is broken chunks of concrete. I wonder if there were originally some gravel beaches in parts of the East Bay, but back nearer the hills at the mouths of the small streams?

The workshop was on Living Shorelines, a term that's come to mean everything from engineered marshes to eelgrass restoration (and gravel beaches, too, according to those folks from up on Puget Sound), but that basically captures the idea of trying to use nature-based approaches to maintain eroding shorelines.