Located southwest of Los Angeles, and the only one of the eight Channel Islands of California Archipalego with a significant permanent population, in the two cities of Avalon and Two Harbors, with developments occurring at Middle Ranch and Rancho Escondido, Santa Catalina, a rocky, twenty-two mile long, eight mile wide at its largest point island, has Mount Orizaba, standing 2,097 feet tall, as its highest elevation point.
Catalina Island was Prehistorically inhabited by Tongva and Gabrielino Native American Indians known for their mining and soapstone, that owned villages near Playa del Rey, underneath the Westchester Bluffs, and San Pedro, the home of the third longest suspension bridge in California, and regularly traded with Little Harbor, Shark, Avalon, and Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, calling the place Pimu or Pimunga.
On October 7, 1542 Portuguese Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed Catalina Island for Spain and named it San Salvador after his sailing vessel, and sixty years later, on November 24, 1602 Spanish Explorer Sebastian Vizcaino rediscovered the island and renamed it Santa Catalina. Other early visitors to the island included Yankee smugglers, especially at China Point, Russian otter hunters, and Russian Aleutian Islands natives that brought diseases to the island ultimately eradicating the Pimugnan peoples by the 1830s.
In 1846 the Mexican government, who then owned the island, granted it to Thomas M. Robbins as Rancho Santa Catalina, and ownership changed hands several times until 1867. Catalina Island also experienced a small Gold Rush during the 1860s, and the United States Government, during the Civil War, ceased the mining operations by ordering the island vacated, placing a Union garrison on the isthmus for approximately nine months, and their barracks, now known as the Isthmus Yacht Club, is the oldest structure on Catalina Island.
George Shatto and the Banning Brothers:
With a few cattle farmers being the only occupants on Catalina Island at the end of the 1800s, the real estate boom of Southern California became a major factor in the island’s development at Avalon as a resort location, with George Shatto and the Banning Brothers building the Hotel Metropole, the city’s first motel, a dance pavilion in the center of town, an aquarium, a steamer-wharf, the Mens Only Pilgrim Gambling Club, more than one hundred affordable tent cities for less affluent tourists to afford to stay while visiting the island, stagecoach tours, hunting lodges, and the only hotel in Two Harbors, the Hotel St. Catherine in Descanso Canyon.
William Wrigley Junior:
The popularity of Catalina Island flourished under chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Junior, who baught Catalina Island in 1919, the steamers the Hermosa II, the S.S. Virginia, the S.S. Catalina, and the S.S. Cabrillo, created the 1927 Wrigley Ocean Marathon, built the Sugarloaf Casino, the Art Deco Dance Hall, the twelve story tall Catalino Casino, the Avalon Theater, the world’s largest circular ballroom, and sold Catalina Clay Products Company pottery and tile artifacts to the growing tourist population of the island.
About four hundred native species of plants grow on Catalina Island including the six endemics the Toyon Perennial Shrubs, the Catalina Manzanitas, the Catalina Dudleys, the Catalina Mahoganies, the Santa Catalina Bedstraws, and the Santa Catalina Island Ironwoods that can be observed at the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. The island is also the home of a wide variety of wildlife including the five endemic mammals the endangered Island Fox, the Santa Catalina Island Harvest Mouse, the California Ground Squirrel, the Ornate Shrew, and the Catalina Island Deer Mouse. Other animals that thrive on the island include bison, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Kelp Bass, Leopard Sharks, barracudas, Catalina Orangetip Butterflies, Flying Fish, rattlesnakes, and Great White Sharks.
Arriving by ferries, helicopters, the “Airport in the Sky,” the restricted use of automobiles, that has as long as a ten year waiting list to bring a car to the island, golf carts, taxis, and bicycles more than a million people visit Catalina Island every year to experience hiking, glass bottom boat rides, scuba diving, snorkeling at Discover Beach and Lovers Cove, bus tours of the island’s interior, surfing Shark Harbor and Ben Weston Beach, and several shipwrecks including the Diosa del Mar Schooner near Ship Rock, the Valiant Yacht, Catalina Island’s most famous shipwreck, the Su-Jac off Casino Point, the Chinese smuggling ship off Ballast Point on the west side of the island, Catalina’s oldest shipwreck, and more.
Catalina Island is a popular camping ground location providing sites for these activities at Parsons Landing, Two Harbors, Little Harbor, Blackjack, Hermit Gulch, Camp Cherry Valley, the most popular Boy Scout camping location in the western United States, Camp Emerald Bay, Camp Fox, Campus by the Sea, Catalina Islands Camps, Camp del Corazon, and Tonyon Bay.
Motion pictures featuring Catalina Island have included The Vanishing American, Terror Island, The Navigator, Pirate Party On Catalina Island, The Glass Bottom Boat, Catalina Caper, Chinatown, Lethal Weapon, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Crank, Farewell, My Lovely, and Step Brothers. Television programs that have shown Catalina Island include Quincy M.E., Endurance, Arrested Development, Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door, Code R, Airwolf, Daddy’s Girls, and The Bold and the Beautiful. Popular literature about Catalina Island has included such books as The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson, Deception Point by Dan Brown, Faithful Friends: The Hidden Diary Series by Sandra Byrd, A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly, The Cubs On Catalina by Jim Vitti, Natural Selection by David Freedman, Falling by Christopher Pike, Getting Real by Harry Turtledove, Avalon by Jeffrey West, the Kage Baker Company’s science fiction book series, “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)” by the Four Preps, “Catalina” by the Descendents, and more.
Popular Catalina Island Attractions include the Casino Point Underwater Marine Park, the Stage Road out of Avalon with multiple hairpin curves in the Catalina Backcountry, the Catalina Island Jazztrax Festival featuring the very latest musical releases, the Catalina Island Museum, the 1910-built Banning House Lodge, the Catalina Cathedral Chimes Tower that rings every fifteen minutes and to announce the arrival and departure of the steamers from Avalon, the Catalina Island Yacht Club, the Inn on Mt. Ada Wrigley Mansion, the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, the Catalina Adventure Tours, the Discovery Tours Catalina Island, the Catalina Island Museum, the Santa Catalina Island Interpretive Center, the El Rancho Escondido Catalina Island, and many more.
This Article was compiled from several websites that provide much more information about Catalina Island including: