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Santa Catalina Island

The Channel Islands

People have been living on Santa Catalina Island for at least 7,000 years, according to archaeologists. So in the grand scheme of things, the culture shock of tourism on this beautiful isle, which is only 21 miles long by 8 miles wide and 22 miles from the Southern California mainland, has really been growing only in recent centuries. Over the millennia different groups of Native Americans have made their homes on the Island, which is part of the Channel Islands group. In 1542, Catalina Island was discovered by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who named it San Salvador and claimed the island in the name of the king of Spain. In 1602, the island was rediscovered by Spanish explorer, Viscaino, who landed there on Saint Catherine's Feast Day (St. Catherine of Alexandria). He named it Santa Catalina Island in her honor.

After Spanish colonization, their apparently flourishing population declined drastically and by the mid-1820s, the few remaining native islanders had migrated or were moved to the mainland. In 1846 Santa Catalina Island was awarded by Mexican Governor Pio Pico to Thomas Robbins as a land grant. Subsequent owners of the island have been James Lick of San Francisco, and William Wrigley of chewing gum and baseball fame who bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919. Wrigley improved the island with public utilities, new steamships, a hotel, the Casino building (which is a theatre and ballroom, not a gambling hall), and extensive plantings of trees, shrubs and flowers. However, his greatest legacy was his plan for the future of Catalina Island - that it remain protected for all generations to enjoy. His son, P.K. Wrigley, eventually established the Catalina Island Conservancy for this in 1972 and transferred all family ownership to it.

Today Santa Catalina Island is a vacation destination. The most common way to get there from the mainland is to take a ferry or go by light aircraft. Catalina is mostly a walking community with few cars. Once out there, you can hike, bike, boat, kayak, take tours, view wildlife, and just relax on the beach. And, if you're looking for a special outing that will create long-lasting memories for the entire family, a Channel Island's Wildlife Cruise is one to add to your list.









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