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Cabrillo National Monument, California

(NPS) Young visitors look up at a statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo.

Under a mandate from the viceroy of Mexico, European navigator Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo commanded an expedition to explore the uncharted western coast of North America and to search for a water route to the riches of Asia. On September 28, 1542, the intrepid Cabrillo sailed his ships San Salvador, Victoria, and San Miguel into what is now San Diego Bay, California, and claimed the land for the Spanish crown. Citing the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Woodrow Wilson declared one-half acre above Cabrillo's landing a national monument in 1913 to memorialize the discovery of California's coast and to secure Cabrillo's place in history and public memory.

In addition to commemorating Cabrillo's landing, visitors come to the southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula for its sweeping view of the city of San Diego, San Diego Bay, portions of Mexico's coastline, the Coronado Islands, and the Pacific Ocean. The historic Old Point Loma lighthouse, another popular attraction at Cabrillo National Monument, is one of the first of eight lighthouses built along the west coast and acted as a signal station for the Navy during World War II. The Bayside Trail honors the area's first settlers, the Kumeyaay Indians, who for centuries before their encounter with Cabrillo, lived off the land on a variety of berries, sage, yucca, and other plants, as well as small game native to the region. In addition, a United States Army defense system of artillery positions, base-end stations, searchlight shelters, and support facilities dating to World Wars I and II can be seen from Bayside Trail. Artifacts relating to the military use of the site are on display in the historic radio station.

Visitors are also drawn to Cabrillo National Monument for its abundance and variety of wildlife. Marine plants and animals, such as anemone, lined shore crabs, grazing limpets, and many other species, abound in the tidepools at the base of the park's western cliffs. Viewing stations high above the cliffs are ideal outlooks for watching the thousands of gray whales that pass by Point Loma from mid-December through February on their 5,000 mile journey from the frigid Arctic Ocean waters to warmer California lagoons where the pregnant females bear their young.

Originally encompassing only one-half acre, surrounding land deemed necessary for the park's maintenance was added to Cabrillo National Monument in 1959, 1974, and 2000. Now the cultural and natural resources of 160 acres within the park's boundaries and 120 acres of tidepool outside the boundaries are maintained, protected, and interpreted by National Park Service personnel.

In 2005, visitors to Cabrillo National Monument responded to the question, "In your opinion, what is the national significance of this park?" with the following comments:

  • “We love this place! Always have - always will.”
  • “Awesome setting and well-done exhibits.”
  • “Explorable!” (From Dora the Explorer)
  • “Been here many times - each time more beautiful.”
  • “This place rocks my socks off!”


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