Big Sur in California

Friday, 9 August 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Environment, General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks

California Highway 1 near Ragged Point © flickr.com - Fred Moore/cc-by-2.0

California Highway 1 near Ragged Point © flickr.com – Fred Moore/cc-by-2.0

Big Sur is a rugged and mountainous section of the Central Coast of California between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. It is frequently praised for its dramatic scenery. Big Sur has been called the “longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States,” a “national treasure that demands extraordinary procedures to protect it from development” and “one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation.” The stunning views, redwood forests, hiking, beaches, and other recreational opportunities have made Big Sur a popular destination for about 7 million people who live within a day’s drive and visitors from across the world. The region receives about the same number of visitors as Yosemite National Park, but offers extremely limited bus service, few restrooms, and a narrow two-lane highway with few places to park alongside the road. North-bound traffic during the peak summer season and holiday weekends is often backed up for about 20 miles (32km) from Big Sur Village to Carmel.

The unincorporated region encompassing Big Sur does not have specific boundaries, but is generally considered to include the 71-mile (114 km) segment of California State Route 1 between Malpaso Creek near Carmel Highlands in the north and San Carpóforo Creek near San Simeon in the south, as well as the entire Santa Lucia range between these creeks. The interior region is mostly uninhabited, while the coast remains relatively isolated and sparsely populated, with between 1,800 and 2,000 year-round residents and relatively few visitor accommodations scattered among four small settlements. The region remained one of the most inaccessible areas of California and the entire United States until, after 18 years of construction, the Carmel–San Simeon Highway (now signed as part of State Route 1) was completed in 1937. Along with the ocean views, this winding, narrow road, often cut into the face of towering seaside cliffs, dominates the visitor’s experience of Big Sur. The highway has been closed more than 55 times by landslides, and in May 2017, a 2,000,000-cubic-foot (57,000³) slide blocked the highway at Mud Creek, north of Salmon Creek near the San Luis Obispo County line, to just south of Gorda. The road was reopened on July 18, 2018.

The region is protected by the Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, which preserves it as “open space, a small residential community, and agricultural ranching.” Approved in 1986, the plan is one of the most restrictive local-use programs in the state, and is widely regarded as one of the most restrictive documents of its kind anywhere. The program protects viewsheds from the highway and many vantage points, and severely restricts the density of development. About 60% of the coastal region is owned by governmental or private agencies which do not allow any development. The majority of the interior region is part of the Los Padres National Forest, Ventana Wilderness, Silver Peak Wilderness or Fort Hunter Liggett.

The original Spanish-language name for the mountainous terrain south of Monterey was el país grande del sur, which means “the big country of the south.” The name el Sud (also meaning “the south”) was first used in the Rancho El Sur land grant made in 1834. In 1915, English-speaking settlers formally adopted “Big Sur” as the name for their post office.

looking north towards Bixby Creek Bridge © Calilover near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park © Joseph Plotz/cc-by-sa-3.0 Andrew Molera State Park © parks.ca.gov Bixby Creek Bridge © Diliff/cc-by-sa-3.0 California Highway 1 near Ragged Point © flickr.com - Fred Moore/cc-by-2.0 Esalen Institute © Callaban/cc-by-sa-4.0 Garrapata State Park © panoramio.com - koala5060/cc-by-sa-3.0 Los Padres National Forest © Greekmatthew/cc-by-sa-4.0 McWay Falls and McWay Cove at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park © Brocken Inaglory/cc-by-sa-3.0 McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park © McChizzle Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary - Point Sur Lighthouse © flickr.com - Robert Schwemmer CINMS - NOAA Photo Library Nepenthe restaurant © Missvain/cc-by-4.0 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park © Arthurrh/cc-by-sa-3.0 Point Sur State Park with Point Sur Light Station © Frank Schulenburg/cc-by-sa-3.0 Portal of the Sun near Pfeiffer Beach © flickr.com - Jason Swearingen/cc-by-2.0 The 'Window' seen from Ventana Doublecone peak in Ventana Wilderness © Jim Bowles/cc-by-sa-3.0 View from Carmel River Beach toward Point Lobos Ranch and Santa Lucia Mountains © WCCasey/cc-by-sa-4.0 Central Californian Coastline © Diliff/cc-by-sa-3.0 Deetjen's Big Sur Inn © flickr.com - Sarah Morris/cc-by-2.0
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Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary - Point Sur Lighthouse © flickr.com - Robert Schwemmer CINMS - NOAA Photo Library
Big Sur is renowned worldwide for its natural features and relatively pristine scenery. The Big Sur coast has been called the “longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the [contiguous] United States.” The region has been described as a “national treasure that demands extraordinary procedures to protect it from development.” The New York Times wrote that it is “one of the most stunning meetings of land and sea in the world.” The Washington Times stated that it is “one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation.” Condé Nast Traveler named State Route 1 through Big Sur one of the top 10 world-famous streets, comparable to Broadway in New York City and the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Writers have compared Big Sur to other natural wonders like the Grand Canyon. Novelist Herbert Gold described it as “one of the grand American retreats for those who nourish themselves with wilderness.”

Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.
Henry Miller

The section of Highway 1 running through Big Sur is widely considered one of the most scenic driving routes in the United States, if not the world. The views are one reason that Big Sur was ranked second among all United States destinations in TripAdvisor‘s 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards. The unblemished natural scenery owes much of its preservation to the highly restrictive development plans enforced in Big Sur; no billboards or advertisements are permitted along the highway and signage for businesses must be modestly scaled and of a rural nature conforming to the Big Sur region. The state of California designated the 72-mile (116 km) section of the highway from Cambria to Carmel Highlands as the first California Scenic Highway in 1965. In 1966, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson led the official scenic road designation ceremony at Bixby Creek Bridge. In 1996, the road became one of the first designated by the federal government as an “All-American Road” under the National Scenic Byways Program. CNN Traveler named McWay Falls as the most beautiful place in California.

The drive along Highway 1 has been described as “one of the best drives on Earth”, and is considered one of the top 10 motorcycle rides in the United States. Highway 1 was named the most popular drive in California in 2014 by the American Automobile Association. Most of the 4 to 5 million tourists who currently visit Big Sur each year never leave Highway 1, because the adjacent Santa Lucia Range is one of the largest roadless coastal areas in the entire United States; Highway 1 offers the only paved access into and out of the region. The beauty of the scenery along the narrow, two-lane road attracts enormous crowds during summer vacation periods and holiday weekends, and traffic is frequently slow. Visitors have reported to the California Highway Patrol hours-long stop-and-go traffic from Rocky Creek Bridge to Rio Road in Carmel during the Memorial Day weekend. The highway winds along the western flank of the mountains mostly within sight of the Pacific Ocean, varying from near sea level up to a 1,000-foot (300 m) sheer drop to the water. Most of the highway is extremely narrow, with tight curves, steep shoulders and blind turns. The route offers few or no passing lanes and, along some stretches, very few pullouts. The sides are occasionally so steep that the shoulders are virtually non-existent.

Despite and because of its popularity, the region is heavily protected to preserve the rural and natural character of the land. The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, approved by Monterey County Supervisors in 1981, states that the region is meant to be an experience that visitors transit through, not a destination. For that reason, development of all kinds is severely restricted.

Read more on VisitCalifornia.com – Spotlight: Big Sur, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Esalen-Institut, Wikivoyage Big Sur and Wikipedia Big Sur (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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