Friday, December 1, 2023


Western Views: Morro Bay, Calif.: Popular with birds, butterflies and tourists

By Len Wilcox

Morro Bay is a small fishing town with about 10,000 residents. It’s on the coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its famous landmark, Morro Rock, is one of thirteen volcanic plugs along the Central Coast. It’s what remains of a volcano that helped build Central California and created the unique geography that makes this area such a special place to visit.

Morro Rock was a landmark used by the early Spanish ships traveling along the coast. The sailors gave it its name: Morro is Spanish for nose.

It was a popular area long before the Spanish came. The Chumash Indians built a settlement alongside the creek that feeds the bay. The Spanish built a port there for the land grant colonies and ranchos that grew up in the area.



After the Americans took over California, settlers expanded the town and built the Embarcadero that still stands at the edge of the bay. The surrounding town grew with a commercial fishery and became a popular tourist destination, especially for folks escaping the summer heat or winter fog of the Central Valley.

If birdwatching is your thing, a visit here is very rewarding. Morro Bay and the surrounding area is located on the Pacific Flyway. It is designated a Globally Important Bird Area and a designated State and National Estuary. Also, a portion of Morro Bay is a state and national bird sanctuary and a state wildlife refuge. More than 200 different bird species have been spotted here by the Morro Coast Audubon Society during their annual Christmas bird count.

And if that isn’t enough to keep you busy, in winter you can visit monarch butterfly roosting sites. Tens of thousands of monarchs cling to the eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees in the Morro Bay State Park. And of course, just up the coast road is Hearst Castle and Big Sur.

All in all, a wonderful area in which to spend a couple of days.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View.

Read previous Western Views articles here.

Do you have a topic you’d like Len to write about? Email him at



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