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
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