April 1, 2022
“It’s a whale of a tale and it’s all true; I swear by my tattoo. About a harpooned whale that rode a wave so big – it left the creature high on dry land.”
– Ned Land (Canadian Harpooner, “No equal in his dangerous trade.”)
Illustration by Neuville and Riou
The “dry land” Ned was referring to is now the present-day area of Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, CA.
Experts surmise that the wave was most likely a tsunami that was generated by a large earthquake off the California coast about 300 years ago. Archeologist have studied the area, including the whale’s location, and estimate that the wave had to be close to 250 feet high to carry the debris and whale to its current location.
Today, you can hike to the petrified/mummified remains of the whale. The shortest route (about 3.5 miles) starts at the backcountry trailhead parking area near the Ranger Station at Crystal Cove State Park. From here, head up the main trail to ‘No Name Ridge’ trail then take the ‘West Cut Across Trail (aka ‘Jeep Trail’) to Rattlesnake Trail. It’s about 1.5 miles to this point and then a little over 2 miles from the Jeep Trail/Rattlesnake Trail junction to the side trail that leads to the whale. The side trail is on the right (south) and is just a short walk to the whale. Once there, you’ll see the whale as well as enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding terrain.
There are also several other trails in the backcountry to explore, some of which will also take you to the whale. Backcountry (primitive) camping is permitted at Lower Moro, Upper Moro and Deer Canyon. Trailer and RV camping is also available at Moro Campground.
The Crystal Cove State Park Historic District is a few miles up the coast and worth the visit. It has 46 vintage rustic cottages and 19 available for overnight rental. Many of the cottages are also right on the beach. There’s also a museum, beach cafe and other historic buildings to see in the Park’s historic district.
Hope you enjoyed our whale of a tale. Happy April Fools Day!