Santa Catalina Island

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Santa Catalina Island is home to two of the most famous BSA Camps on the US West Coast.


Santa Catalina Island (Tongva: Pimugna or Pimu) is a rocky island off the coast of the U.S. state of California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina. The island name is often shortened to Catalina Island or just Catalina. The island is 22 mi (35 km) long and 8 mi (13 km) across at its greatest width. The island is located about 22 mi (35 km) south-southwest of Los Angeles, California. The highest point on the island is 2,097 ft (639 m) atop Mount Orizaba. Santa Catalina is part of the Channel Islands of California archipelago and lies within Los Angeles County.

Catalina was originally settled by Native Americans who called the island Pimugna or Pimu and referred to themselves as Pimugnans or Pimuvit. The first Europeans to arrive on Catalina claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Over the years, territorial claims to the island transferred to Mexico and then to the United States. During this time, the island was sporadically used for smuggling, otter hunting, and gold-digging, before successfully being developed into a tourist destination by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. beginning in the 1920s. Since the 1970s, most of the island has been administered by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Its total population in the 2010 census was 4,096 people, 90 percent of whom live in the island's only incorporated city, Avalon. The second center of population is the unincorporated village of Two Harbors at the island's isthmus. Development occurs also at the smaller settlements of Rancho Escondido and Middle Ranch. The remaining population is scattered over the island between the two population centers.


Since Catalina Island was never connected to mainland California, it was originally lacking in all terrestrial life. Any plants or animals that arrived on the island had to make their way across miles of open ocean. The original species to come to the island arrived by chance by blowing over on the wind, drifting or swimming over the ocean, or flown over by wing. Starting with the Native Americans and continuing today, animals and plants have also been introduced by humans, both intentionally or accidentally.[1]

Catalina is home to at least fifty endemic species that occur naturally on the island and nowhere else in the world.[2] This limited distribution of a species may result from the extinction of the original population on the mainland combined with its continued survival on the island where there may be fewer threats to its continued existence.[3]


The most common native plant communities of Catalina Island are chaparral, coastal sage scrub, island oak-ironwood woodland and grassland. Eucalyptus trees are the most common introduced plant.

About 400 species of native plants grow on the island.[4] Six species, subspecies or varieties are endemic and can be found only on Catalina Island. These plants are: Catalina manzanita (Arctostaphylos catalinae); Catalina mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae); Catalina dudleya (Dudleya hassei); St. Catherine's lace (Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum); Santa Catalina bedstraw (Galium catalinense ssp. catalinense); and Santa Catalina Island ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. floribundus). A disjunctive population of toyon var. macrocarpa is also a Santa Catalina endemic.[5] These plants may be seen at the island's Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens.[6]


The island is home to five native land mammals: the island fox, the Spermophilus beecheyi nesioticus subspecies of California ground squirrel, the Santa Catalina Island harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis catalinae), the Santa Catalina Island deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus catalinae), and the ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus). Only one ornate shrew was ever found, from a now-developed spring area above Avalon. Shrews are difficult to capture and may survive in wetter areas of the island.[7]

The Catalina orangetip butterfly is a notable insect of the island. The Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) is also present on the island. This species should not be confused for the Santa Catalina rattlesnake, found on Santa Catalina Island, Mexico.[8]

The island is also home to a number of non-native animals, notably including the American bison. In 1924, fourteen bison were brought to the island for the filming of the Western movie The Vanishing American, though the scenes with the bison did not make it into the final cut of the film. Due to cost overruns, the film company decided to leave the bison on the island instead of bringing them back to the mainland. Today the size of the Catalina Island bison herd is maintained at population of about 150 animals.[9] Other non-native animals currently living on the island include the blackbuck, bullfrog, feral cat, mule deer, rat, and common starling. The island was also previously home to populations of cattle, feral goat, feral pig, and sheep, but these animals are no longer present.[10]


In the waters surrounding the island, there are schools of fish like Garibaldi, California sheephead, leopard sharks, white seabass, yellowtail, bat rays, giant sea bass, and many more.[11] Great white sharks are also occasionally found or caught off the coast of Catalina, though usually around seal rookeries and not around inhabited areas.[12] Common marine mammals around Catalina include California sea lions and harbor seals.[8]


  1. "Catalina Ecology". Catalina Island Conservancy. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  2. "Endemic Species". Catalina Island Conservancy. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  3. "Rare and Endangered Plants". Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  4. Lili Singer, A plant pilgrimage, Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2006.
  5. C. Michael Hogan, (2008) Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-19. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  6. Template:Citation
  7. Schoenherr, Allan; C. Robert Feldmeth; Michael J. Emerson (2003). Natural History of the Islands of California. University of California Press. p. 645. ISBN 0-520-21197-9. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Animal Species". Catalina Island Conservancy. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  9. Template:Citation
  10. "Non-native animals". Catalina Island Conservancy. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  11. "Avalon Underwater Park & Kelp Forest Creatures". Franko's Maps. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  12. "Great white shark caught off Catalina". St. Joseph News-Press. Associated Press (San Pedro, CA): p. 2A. 17 April 1980. Retrieved 18 March 2013.