Apr 28, 2011 7:08 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: Morro Rock

It's called the Gibralter of the Pacific, and if you've traveled highway one along the central coast, you know it well. Or do you? Tonight we do a little digging into the history of Morro Rock. And once again, we found it's more proof there's No Place Like Home.

It's a monument to our past. The massive, magnificent, Morro Rock is one of the volcanic growths along the central coast known as the Nine Sisters. It is also the one most people know by name. It's a landmark of the little seaside community, and a focal point for mariners at sea and tourists fascinated by it as they pass through our area.

it was Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who named the rock El Morro in 1542. It became a state historical landmark in 19-68, and state landmark #801 in 19-68.

It is more than just a massive mound of granite in the bay, it is a nesting area for all kinds of California birds, including gulls, pelicans and falcons.

You can no longer climb it's rocky peaks as was once encouraged decades ago. But you don't have to, to marvel at its significance to this stretch of coastline.

It may be hard to imagine, but it was once much bigger than it is today. Though volcanic in origin, there was no big eruption or explosion 23-million years ago that created Morro Rock, but what's called intrusion over time. Basically there were layers of softer rock with cracks. The molten lava kind of bubbled or squeezed up through those cracks and the softer rock kind of eroded away. Rock "plugs" were left behind and Morro Rock is one of those.

Morro Rock is made up of what's called Dacite, a form of granite. It's much harder than sandstone, much harder than shale, but not quite as hard as the granite you'd find in the Sierra Nevada. It is great for building which is why this mammoth rock has not always stood undisturbed.

At one time Morro Rock was completely surrounded by water, but now pieces of the rock make up the breakwater that makes it a whole lot safer for boats to get in and out of Morro Bay harbor.

The causeway that now leads out to the rock was built so blasting crews could have easy access to this granite source. For some 60 to 70 years, crews blasted away and parts of Morro Rock were used as building material. You'll find it in downtown San Luis Obispo churches, the Avila breakwater and in the foundations for homes up and down the central coast.

Eventually, people starting taking notice of it's diminishing dimensions. "You know, people got really concerned about how much rock was being taken out of there and said sooner or later we have to protect this place as a landmark or there won't be anything left." says Rouvaishyana, of the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History.

Thankfully there is plenty of it left. And it serves as a backdrop to a natural playground worthy of spending some of your time. It is a place where the waves, the wind and wildlife provide worthy entertainment. It's important to do more than drive by this scenic monument, but get out and explore the natural wonders that surround it.

Known by Mariners as the Gibralter of the Pacific, she seems to me like the Mona Lisa of Morro Bay. Every one who sees her for the first time, wants her picture. And like the Mona Lisa, she looks different from every angle. But no matter what direction she's catching your eye from, she always offers up magnificent proof there's no place like home.



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