Morro Bay is a waterfront city in San Luis Obispo County, California, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 10,234, down from 10,350 at the 2000 census.
The prehistory of Morro Bay relates to Chumash settlement, particularly near the mouth of Morro Creek. At least as early as the Millingstone Horizon thousands of years before present, there was an extensive settlement along the banks and terraces above Morro Creek.
The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition, came down Los Osos Valley and camped near today’s Morro Bay on September 8, 1769. Franciscan missionary and expedition member Juan Crespi noted in his diary that “we saw a great rock in the form of a round morro”.
Morro Rock later gave its name to the town. The descriptive term morro is common to the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian languages, and the word is part of many place names where there is a distinctive and prominent rock formation. Note that the similar Spanish descriptive word “moro” indicates a bluish color rather than a shape.
The first recorded Filipino immigrants to America arrived at Morro Bay on October 18, 1587, from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Esperanza.
While governed by Mexico, large land grants split the surrounding area into cattle and dairy ranchos. These ranchos needed shipping to bring in dry goods and to carry their crops, animals, and other farm products to cities. Thus, Morro Bay grew.
The town of Morro Bay was founded by Franklin Riley in 1870 as a port for the export of dairy and ranch products. He was instrumental in the building of a wharf which has now become the Embarcadero. During the 1870s, schooners could often be seen at the Embarcadero picking up wool, potatoes, barley, and dairy products.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the town has been a center for beach holidays. Tourism is the city’s largest industry. The most popular beach is on the north side of Morro Rock, north of the harbor. There are also excellent beaches north and south of the town which are now owned by the State of California.
In the 1940s, Morro Bay developed an abalone fishing industry. Having peaked in 1957, stocks of abalone have now declined significantly due to overfishing, it remains a fishing port for halibut, sole, rockfish, albacore, and many other species for both commercial and sport vessels. The town now combines the fishing industry with coastal tourism. In addition, oysters are farmed artificially in the shallow back bay.
A portion of Morro Bay is also designated as a state and national bird sanctuary. This means it is illegal to kill or harm a bird in that portion of Morro Bay. It is also a state and national estuary. Much of Morro Bay is a state wildlife refuge where waterfowl hunting is conducted during the season and is one of the few areas in California where Pacific Brant are pursued. Recently, Morro Bay was also declared a California Marine Reserve by the California Fish and Game Commission.
The town’s most striking feature is Morro Rock, a 576 foot high volcanic plug. Morro Rock stands at the entrance to the harbor, and a causeway connects it with the shore. Previously, it was surrounded by water, but the northern channel was filled in to make the harbor. The Rock, as locals call it, was quarried from 1889 to 1969. There is no public access to the rock itself because it is a reserve for the locally endangered peregrine falcon. However, the area around the base of Morro Rock can be visited. Every few years, someone is caught trying to climb the rock. Climbers risk more than fines or jail time as the rocks that form Morro Rock are loose and fall down regularly. The base of Morro Rock is littered with fallen boulders.
Morro Rock is one in a series of similar plugs that stretch in a line inland called the Nine Sisters. It is possible that the landscape moved over a volcanic hot spot through the ages.
Photo Credits:Daniel Worthington
There are no schools near by this property.