Lucia, CA in Big Sur, California - Photos and Information

Pictured below is a hilltop bend in the road with a cafe for dining at Lucia. It's population is not large and commerce is at a minimum, so we have included this photo and general information about the Santa Lucia Mountains for your interest. Lucia is located on Highway 1 in the Big Sur region of California's Central Coast and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

The cafe in Lucia has a spell binding view deck -- you can see along the cliffs and openings of jade coves and out to the dramatic promontory of Cape Martin very good food, and seems to always sport very personable, lively wait staff.

The Big Sur Coast of Central California is over seventy miles in length and stretches from the Carmel area on the north, south to the San Luis Obispo County line near San Simeon. The eastern boundary is the western slopes of Santa Lucia Mountains; the western boundary, the Pacific Ocean.


The western slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains, reaching an elevation of 5,200' at Cone Peak, drop precipitously to the sea. Much of the coast is bounded by sheer cliffs. Great offshore rocks punctuate the dramatic meeting of land and sea. Beaches are few; strong currents, waves and cold water make swimming hazardous. Nearly fifty separate streams flow down the mountains to join the sea. Several of these, such as the Big Sur and Little Sur Rivers, Big Creek, Garrapata Creek and Salmon Creek, have substantial year-round flows and support migrating as well as resident fish. The Big Sur    coast is rich in plant and wildlife diversity. Coast redwoods are found in the cool, moist canyons. The Santa Lucia fir and many other rare plants are present. Mountain lion, deer and many smaller terrestrial animals and birds make Big Sur their home. The California sea otter refuge runs the length of the coast, providing safe harbor for the sea otter, perhaps the most playful member of the coast's diverse marine wildlife.


The climate in Big Sur is mild. Although the winters bring some of the heaviest rainfall in California, the summers are long and dry. Coastal fog is typical on summer mornings near the shore, while inland and at the higher elevations temperatures can get quite high.


The rugged mountainous terrain of the Big Sur coast has had a profound effect on historical use of the area and will continue to serve as a limitation on the kinds of activities that can be carried on and the scale of development. Natural constraints to development, including availability of water, difficult access and unstable soils on steep slopes require extra care and imaginative solutions when contemplating new land uses.


The scenic qualities and the natural grandeur of the coast which result from the imposing geography, the rich vegetative compositions and the dramatic meeting of land and sea are the area's greatest single attraction. Big Sur has attained a world-wide reputation for spectacular beauty.


Although it has remained a rural area where sturdy pioneering families still carry on ranching, Big Sur's residents have also achieved acclaim for their cultural contributions. Many well-known writers, artists and artisans have been inspired by the coast's dramatic vistas and timeless solitude. A strong community identity continues to attract new residents. Today, tourism and private residential development are the strongest trends affecting management of the area.


Approximately half of the areas 150,000 acres le within the Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness. Nearly 10,000 acres are contained within units of the State Park System. Approximately 60,000 acres are in private ownership.


 Historical settlement of the Big Sur coast was initiated by the Mexican Government in the late 18th century with the bestowal of two land grants-the 8,949 acre Rancho El Sur (between the Little Sur River and what is now called Cooper Point) and Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito, an 8,876 acre grant, bounded on the north by the Carmel River and on the south by Palo Colorado Canyon.


With the United States occupation, unappropriated public lands in California became available to settlers in parcels of 160 acres. Big Sur was initially settled by a number of homesteaders whose names are now borne by well known topographic and natural features in Big Sur (e.g., the Pfeiffers, Carlie Bixby and Jim Anderson).


The development of a tan bark industry in the mid-1870's led to the construction of several landings along the Big Sur Coast. These landings were used for loading the bark (used in the manufacture of tannic acid), as well as for shipping redwood lumber. Among them was Godfrey Notley's Landing, near the mouth of the Palo Colorado Canyon, around which a thriving village sprang up. Jim Anderson also had a landing and there was another at the mouth of the Big Sur River. Perhaps the most spectacular was Partington Landing. The Rockland Cement Company chose Limekiln Canyon as its headquarters in the 1880's in order to exploit a rich deposit of calcareous rock discovered in the vicinity of the canyon. Schooners began to regularly frequent Rockland Landing to load limestone bricks and deliver supplies. With the demise of the liming operation, the days of industrial enterprise along the Big Sur coast came to an abrupt halt.


The discovery of gold near the head of Alder Creek led to the Big Sur Gold Rush of the 1880's. The Los Burros Mining District sprang into being with three stamp mills and a boomtown named Manchester mushroomed on Alder Creek. In its heyday, Manchester boasted four stores, a restaurant, five saloons, a dance hall and a hotel. By 1895 the boom had begun to fade.

As the 19th century drew to a close, more settlers came to live on the south coast. The two sons of one of the original homesteaders, Bill Post, each homesteaded 160 acres, while various relatives acquired tracts totaling another 640 acres. Their land stretches as far south as the site of the present-day Nepenthe Restaurant. The ranchhouse still stands on Highway 1 at the top of what is now called "Post Grade". Big Sur's original post office and its second schoolhouse were built on the Post Ranch.


The 20th century saw the emergence of recreation-oriented commercial development along the Big Sur Coast. For decades, the Big Sur country had been attracting hunters and fishermen. The start of the resort business began with the Pfeiffer Ranch Resort, which catered to these sportsmen. The Hotel Idlewild, located on the banks of the Little Sur River, soon rivaled the Pfeiffer Ranch for its business.


The one deterrent to the development of the south coast as a Mecca for tourists as well as sportsmen, was the hazardous road that had to be closed part of the year. The concept of a year-round scenic highway originated with Dr. John Roberts, the founder of the City of Seaside.


Many of the original settlers were enraged by the devastation resulting from the highway construction. Machinery blasted through the great cliffs, scarring granite promontories, defiling canyons and waterfalls with debris. On June 27, 1937, the highway was completed at a cost of approximately $8,000,000. A way of life had ended and a new era began for the beautiful country.

The process of ensuring the long-term protection of Big Sur's unique coastline was initiated by John Pfeiffer in 1934 when he sold 706 acres to the State for the nucleus of the 822 acre Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The Lathrop Browns, who purchased Saddle Rock Ranch, later donated 1,700 acres  which now constitutes Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 21 acre John Little State Park, originally part of the Slate property sold to Milton Little, was donated by Elizabeth Livermore. Francis Molera, granddaughter of Juan Bautista Roger Cooper, placed 2,000 acres in trust for Andrew Molera State Park. The generosity of these pioneering families has been a lasting contribution to the preservation of Big Sur and the people of Monterey County and the State.


The history of development in Big Sur reflects the changing demands for use of the land. Subsistence ranching, logging of redwoods, harvesting tan bark and mining of limestone and gold provided a livelihood for early residents. While life was extremely rugged in these early years, there was a population of nearly 1,000 people by the 1880's largely supported by these basic industries. The mountain terrain, numerous deep canyons and lack of roads made travel difficult and slow. Most local products were shipped out by sea on the small coastal trading vessels that brought supplies to the isolated coast's residents. Palo Colorado Canyon, Notley's Landing, Bixby Creek, the Big Sur Valley and Partington Canyon were early centers of activity. Around the turn of the century, limited recreational use of the coast began to occur. The Big Sur Valley could be reached by stage from Monterey and camping in the redwood groves grew in popularity. Hunting and trout fishing were also popular and some local residents supplemented their income by guiding sportsmen from the cities.


Today, the tan bark, lumber and limestone industries have ceased. Gold is still mined on a limited basis in the Los Burros region and a few trees are harvested along the coast. Ranching continues as the major use of the large private holdings and contributes much to the character of Big Sur. Public recreation and private residential development are by far the strongest land use trends today.


Single family residences comprise a major developed land use on private land. This occurs either in rural residential clusters in areas where development has historically been concentrated or scattered along Highway One. Many of the larger parcels are used for cattle grazing. Commercial uses, including restaurants, grocery stores and service stations are generally concentrated in the Big Sur Valley, Gorda and a few isolated businesses along Highway One. Recreational uses include public and private campgrounds, visitor accommodations, restaurants, State Park units and the Los Padres National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service has offices and other facilities in the Big Sur Valley and at Pacific Valley. State Parks and Recreation manages its units in Big Sur from offices in the Big Sur Valley. Caltrans has maintenance facilities in the Big Sur Valley and at Gorda. Quasi-public uses serving the local community and the traveling public are located in the Big Sur Valley. These include the Big Sur Grange hall, Captain Cooper Elementary School, churches, the County Library, Post Office and new Multi-Agency Conference Center.


There are approximately 1,100 parcels in private ownership on the Big Sur Coast, ranging in size from less than an acre to several thousands of acres. Approximately 790 are vacant and 370 are occupied. Many have more than one unit on them, either residential or commercial. Small parcels of 2.5 acres or less are generally located near the highway, particularly between the highway and the ocean in a few specific locations including Palo Colorado Canyon, Garrapata Redwood, Rocky Point, Big Sur Valley, Coastlands and Partington. These areas have the greatest number of developed parcels.


Approximately 2/3 of the Big Sur coastal zone is in public ownership under the U.S. Forest Service, the State Department of Parks and Recreation, the  U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the University of California. If public acquisitions now contemplated or in progress are completed, approximately 60% of the coast will be publicly owned. Some of the private lands have scenic easements or deed restrictions, which limit the level of development.


The 1990 decade census recorded approximately 800 housing units of which approximately 600 were single family dwellings. Large proportions of these homes are located in several residential areas. While there are historic expectations the buildup of these areas will be allowed to proceed, there are a number of conflicts with the broad objectives of the land use plan, particularly visual protection and protection of water resources.


Residential areas include: Otter Cove, Garrapata Ridge/Rocky Point, Garrapata and Palo Colorado Canyons, Bixby Canyon, Pfeiffer Ridge/Sycamore Canyon, Coastlands, Partington Ridge, Burns Creek, Buck Creek to Lime Creek, Plaskett Ridge and Redwood Gulch. The Big Sur Valley, Lucia and Gorda also have significant residential use, although the primary functions of these areas are community service and commercial.

As a recreational area of regional, national and international importance, Big Sur attracts nearly 4.5 million visitors annually. The accessibility of Big Sur  to several nearby population centers is a major factor contributing to its high visitation. The basic recreational resource of Big Sur is the visual beauty of its striking landforms and unspoiled landscape. The mountains, forests, creeks, rivers and ocean shoreline combine to offer diverse recreational opportunities. The artistic and rustic lifestyle for which Big Sur is known creates an attractive cultural setting that compliments the natural character of the area.

Recreational activity is concentrated along the coastal strip: on beaches, rocky shoreline, public parks, forest lands, campgrounds off Highway One and various visitor serving facilities.


The Big Sur Valley has numerous camping, lodging, dining and other visitor serving facilities and is the focal point for recreational activity and services in Big Sur. The Big Sur River, the beach at the river mouth, the redwoods in the valley and Pfeiffer Beach are major natural resources in the area.


The Los Padres National Forest occupies much of the area south of the Big Sur Valley. The national forest is a major hiking, backpacking and camping area. Several trailheads offering access to the backcountry and the Ventana Wilderness are located off Highway One. Several beaches including Sand Dollar Beach, Mill Creek Beach and other smaller pocket beaches are scattered along the southern Big Sur Coast within the boundaries of the National Forest. Hiking trails are scattered throughout the Ventana Wilderness and the National Forest backcountry. Day use facilities are provided at Mill Creek, Sand Dollar Beach, Willow Creek and Pfeiffer Beach.


The above has been extracted from the Monterey County Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan.



      INFO: 831.667.2391  Highway 1  Big Sur, California Monterey County

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