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Carmel River State Beach's Monastery Beach can be deadly


carmel river state beach

pictures of Carmel's state beach

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Carmel River State Beach in Carmel is also known as Monastery Beach--but another nickname has locals shaking their heads. They call it a mortuary.


Monastery Beach AKA Mortuary Beach offers one more reason that tourists and locals need to use caution and apply some rules of the water when entering the Pacific Ocean from California's rugged coastal shores. Steep beaches such as Monastery Beach, also known as Carmel River Beach shown in the photos above, gets its nickname "Mortuary" from the accidents that have occurred there.

Savvy divers are even caught unaware and rescues have been numerous, so the local state parks superintendant was urged by residents to post signage warning of the risks to tourists just happening on this lovely stretch that you can't help but fall in love with as you stand on the hilltop above looking down at what seems like a pristine scene of serenity.


Apparently it's anything but serene in the ocean located at the mouth of the Carmel River. While there was only a single drowning in a recent year's count (much less than large public beaches in metropolitan areas,) Carmel Bay from Point Lobos State Preserve to Pescadero Point in Pebble Beach, averages only two fatalities per year from rip tides, and inability to handle the conditions.


A local Carmel resident has observed many tourists visiting Monastery Beach, completely unaware of the undertow and steep shore. The beach features several warning signs that use terms such as 'life-threatening waves and currents' but doesn't specifically alert divers to the dangers they may encounter.


When visiting Sonoma County beaches, I read signs warning of sleeper waves, that I really wasn't familiar with. One guide book in my hotel room said to never turn your back to the ocean as these waves seemingly appear out of nowhere.  In Carmel, a family traveling from L.A. to S.F. was swept into the water at Carmel River State Beach as they posed for a souvenir photo. Such incidents are actually somewhat common throughout California.  In Newport Beach a man and woman fished along the jetty rocks and were swept into the water, and their bodies were discovered.


Will the desire to warn the public with better signage be enough to prevent additional deaths?  Only time will tell. But all of California's coastal waters have strong currents, sometimes undertow, sometimes sleeper waves, and most often rip currents that drag swimmers away from shore, causing them to panic, and unfortunately drown, if they don't know how to escape.