California’s Big Sur: More Protections Are on the Way

Big Sur coast. Photo by hortulus, Flickr.

If Highway 1 in California is considered one of the world’s most scenic drives, then the section through Big Sur and the Santa Lucia Mountains offers some of its most memorable vistas.

The Big Sur Coast — home to sheer cliffs that drop hundreds of feet to the pounding surf below, majestic Santa Lucia Firs, rushing pristine rivers, and quiet spiritual retreats — may soon gain more protection with legislation by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel).

Big Sur is one of California’s most identifiable and ruggedly beautiful areas — a postcard-ready landscape nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the often fog-shrouded forest of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Farr’s bill will add 2,287 acres to the Ventana Wilderness, which was originally created in 1969 and spans 240,008 acres. The Santa Lucia Mountains are home to the largest population of mountain lion in the United States as well as wild pigs and turkeys and many unique plant species.

The legislation also adds portions of the Arroyo Seco, Carmel and San Antonio rivers and the San Carpoforo and Big Creeks to the National Wild and Scenic River system. These additions will permanently protect these beautiful waterways.

These proposed small, but scenic, wilderness additions correct and improve upon the last wilderness bill which passed in 2006. The new additions include rugged canyons with perennial creeks, chaparral-covered slopes, oak woodlands and a large meadow in the eastern portion of the proposal.

One new area of historical and anthropological interest is the Horse Canyon Addition. This area was said to be the haunt of legendary horse thief Tiburcio Vasquez in the mid 1800s. It was also an area occupied by the Esselen Native Americans.

Horse Canyon is adjacent to the Arroyo Seco Ranch, that is owned and administered by the Big Sur Land Trust. The Trust welcomes the linkage to the Ventana Wilderness created by this new addition. Future plans for the ranch include several miles of public trails, and hiking and education programs.

Alder Creek Addition

Another unique addition to the Ventana Wilderness is the Alder Creek Botanical Area which has several rare and endangered plants that thrive in its unique serpentine soil.

Alder Creek flows through here, and the Buckeye Trail traverses the land. Formerly known as the Upper Coast Trail, the Buckeye has a history of use dating back to the 1880s when it connected the long-vanished gold mining community of Manchester with the Big Sur Coast.

By protecting these unique and historic areas, the Big Sur Coast will retain more of its raw beauty and character that has long been a draw for thousands of visitors, hikers and campers.

Big Sur in California. Photo by Sequoia Hughes.Farr’s legislation is also notable because his district had more conservation legislation passed through the U.S. Congress than any other California region in the last 10 years.

Congressman Farr, whose family’s northern California roots date back five generations, is dedicated to protecting the land he calls home. This Congressional session, Farr has also introduced a bill to upgrade Pinnacles National Monument, near Soledad, to a National Park.

Visitors to the Big Sur Coast

The outdoors traveler may wish to contact the Ventana Wilderness Alliance to go on a hike or to volunteer to protect the local ecosystem:

Or for a spiritual escape, visit the Esalen retreat center.

Big Sur coast. Photo by hortulus, Flickr.
Big Sur in California. Photo by Sequoia Hughes.