Catalina Island Avalon California

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Catalina Island Avalon California

Brief history

This is a storied place. Catalina Island Avalon California, books of fiction and non-fiction include it. Travel material about California nearly always includes it. First of all, for some, it’s a bucket list place. For others, it’s another pin in their map. Finally, for still others, it’s home. As a result, about 4100 people live on the island with about 3700 of them living in Avalon. The island is part of the Channel Islands off the California coast. Here is a (Link)to a tourism web site. The island is 22 miles long and 8 miles wide at the widest point. In summary, the island accounts for 74 square miles.

Channel Islands

There are eight Channel Islands. Five of the islands make up Channel Island National Park. Here is a link to the park. First of all, two are owned by the US Navy. All except Catalina are virtually uninhabited. In contrast, the two owned by the Navy have between 200 and 300 people from the Navy and related civilians. However, none are permanent residents. In addition, two islands are listed by the US Census Bureau as having no permanent residents. Finally, three of them have populations of three, two and two. Furthermore, the eight islands are under the jurisdiction of three California counties. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article regarding all of the islands.

Catalina Island landscape
View of Catalina Island landscape from the interior toward the Pacific

Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a national treasure. First of all, there are several species of both plants and animals that are native to the island and don’t exist other places. Consequently, much of the island (about 88%) is now a Conservancy district. The district is a non-profit founded in 1972 to protect natural wildlife on the island. Furthermore, here is a link to the Conservancy web site. The island has about 1 million visitors a year. (Here is a link to the previous post on this blog from the California trip.)

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The connection to music here is a song called “26 Miles” released by The Four Preps in 1958. The songwriter saw Catalina Island from a California beach while surfing. Interestingly, Catalina is 26 miles away at that point. The key focus of the song is Romance! Catalina has an “island culture” like many well known islands. Romance is a part of it. Also, it has a party atmosphere and the “laid back” culture found on other islands.

Catalina Island aerial view
Aerial view of Catalina Island

Avalon California

Avalon is the southernmost city in Los Angeles County. Here is a link to the city’s web site. Avalon incorporated as a city in 1913. Furthermore, it’s the only incorporated city on the island. And the only one on the eight Channel Islands.

Catalina Island Avalon California
View onto the hillside of the city of Avalon.
Catalina Island Avalon California
Another view of the coastline and the Avalon Harbor

In keeping with a theme of connecting music to the blog, “ Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills and Nash feature the lyrics “in a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you”.

Auto ownership at Catalina Island Avalon California

Vehicle ownership is very strict. There are 17 categories for vehicle ownership. Of these, most are commercial vehicles. For personal vehicles, there are two main categories. First, “autoettes” make up this category. Certainly, these count as vehicles. As a result, autoettes are limited to no more than 120 inches in length, 55 inches in width and no more than 1800 pounds. As a result, many of them are golf carts. However, there are small cars that fit the description. The further restriction that there can be no more than 1 autoette per residence.

Full-size vehicles are currently limited to 422 vehicles. Most noteworthy, they can’t be over 200 inches in length and 80 inches in width. There is no weight limit. Again, there can be only one vehicle per residence. However, a residence may have both an auto and an autoette.

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Interestingly, for a new vehicle permit to be issued, two vehicle permits must be surrendered. As a result, the number of personal vehicle can decrease. There is a waiting list for personal vehicles. According to one resident, when a child is born, his or her name is placed on the waiting list. The current waiting list falls between 20 and 30 YEARS from the time a person is added to the list!

Wrigley Family

The Wrigley family bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company. They are the chewing gum family! First of all, the company dedicated itsele to make Catalina a first class tourist destination. Also, they bought nearly all of the island. In 1975, the Wrigley family deeded 88% of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy. (See more information above in the section on Catalina Island.) Above all, the Conservancy dedicated itself to conservation of the island resources. The Wrigley family still owns nearly all of the Santa Catalina Island Company.

The Wrigley family also owned the Chicago Cubs. From 1921 until 1951, the Cubs conducted spring training on the island. Consequently, spring training games occurred here. The games were played in Catalina’s version of Wrigley Field. (In 1952, the Cubs moved their spring training to Arizona and have remained there execpt for 1966 when they trained in Long Beach California.)

Jeep Eco Tour at Catalina Island Avalon California

There are several organizations that do tours of the island. The Driveby Tourist chose the 2 hour Jeep Eco Tour. (Here is a link.) Since it was a Monday in early March, I was the only one on the tour. As a result, had a personal tour! The route went thru the island up to the “Airport in the Sky”.

The tour guide showed points of interest. He told about the various plants and animals on the island. Therefore, I heard about plants native to the island and animals both native and introduced to the island.


Catalina is home to nearly 400 native plants and 200 non-native plants. Here is a link to the Conservancy web site. There are too many plants to list here. Over the years, invasive species inadvertently imported began to take over native plants. The Conservancy is working to remove and control these plants. They are destroying many of the original species. The species under attack include trees.


Catalina Fox
Catalina Island native fox

The Catalina Fox is native and distinct to the Channel Islands. Around the year 2000, they were almost extinct. With a massive effort involving the National Park Service, Nature Conservancy, and the Catalina Island Conservancy, the foxes were saved and are no longer considered endangered. The fox became infected with a form of canine distemper. Testing of all the dogs on the island revealed none of them had the disease. One of the fixes was to eliminate the non-native feral pigs. While this caused concern among environmentalists, the pigs had to go.

The foxes on the other end of island (across the isthmus) proved not infected. The foxes on the larger side of the island were then vaccinated. Those that survived were integrated with foxes from the smaller side. Today, the foxes are thriving with about 2000 on the entire island. Another part of the solution was to remove the Golden Eagles and reintroduce the Bald Eagles. The Bald Eagles were not predators of the fox. They live on fish from the ocean.


The bison on the island initially came over in 1924 for a backdrop in a movie being filmed. Above all, the bison never appeared in the film. They were all males and males alone don’t have the herd instinct. Eventually, the conservancy imported an equal number of female bison. From there the herd multiplied. When the bison herd became too large, they overgrazed the island. Initially, the excess bison became destined for the slaughterhouse for the meat.

An island woman took up the cause and determined to find another way to reduce herd. She found a Sioux tribe in North Dakota who would take some Bison every year. But the herd continued to grow. She set out again and found other Native American tribes/nations who took more of them. Eventually, the conservancy introduced conception and the birthrate declined. Currently, the target is to have no more than 150 bison on the island. The tour guide told me about 130 bison live on the island today.

We saw some bison on the tour. As a result, the funny picture below shows the bison as indistinguishable. In the picture, they just look like “blobs”.

Catalina Bison
Distant pictures of Catalina Island Bison (Can’t really be identified but wanted to include the picture anyway!)


Catalina has an airport called the “Airport in the Sky”, presumably because it is on one the highest elevation points on the island. From the 1930s into the 1980s, scheduled air service to Catalina continued from various nearby cities in California, notably Long Beach. The airport now services the US Mail, private and chartered planes, and sightseeing helicopters. Finally, an interesting story; the actor Harrison Ford became banned from flying his own plane to the island because he wouldn’t abide by air traffic control instructions!

Airport in the Sky
Catalina Airport in the Sky

A fun day at Catalina Island Avalon California

Great trip to Catalina Island. Walking tour of Avalon. Rented a golf cart and drove the island. Jeep Eco Tour. Lunch and dinner at local restaurants. Ice cream (it was disappointing) at an ice cream shop. From Long Beach on the 9:50 AM boat and left on the 7:30 PM boat. Here are a few more pictures for the island. (Overall, the food was disappointing.)

Catalina Island Avalon California
Interior shot
Avalon California
Intersection and a view in Avalon
Catalina Island
From the interior out to the Pacific
Catalina Island Avalon California
More Catalina Island landscape

…and the day comes to an end with the boat ride back to Long Beach….

The Driveby Tourist