Created from the the vision and perservance of local homesteaders and later developed by a group of locals called the Pinnacles Boys and the Civilian Conservation Corps, Pinnacles National Park continues to evolve over time. Since 1908, Pinnacles National Monument has increased in bits and pieces to its present size of about 26,000 acres. On January 10, 2013 President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress that redesignated the monument as a National Park. Many visitors come to hike, picnic, bird watch, rock climb, learn about geology and plants, see wild animals or perhaps to simply enjoy the wilderness which offers peace and quiet.
Some of the major challenges that Pinnacles has faced in the past few decades has been exotic and invasive species. Feral pigs became a major problem at the park in the 1960s. Boars were originally brought over from Eurasia for hunting and hybridized with domestic pigs to create a feral species. Because pigs are not native to the Americas, they have no natural predators so their population exploded. Once the pigs entered into the park, their rooting instincts tore up vegetation and riparian areas near water where they like to bathe. The park decided that the pigs were causing too much damage to resources and competing with native species, so they decided to start the construction of a special fence to keep the pigs out, but allow other animals to pass freely into and out of the park. Construction started in 1983 and by 2003 the fence was completed, the park was deemed pig free in 2016.
Fire management policy has also been ever evolving throughout the history of Pinnacles. In 1973, Pinnacles began using prescribed burns as a way to manage ecosystems such as chapparal. By periodically starting controlled burns in the park, the chance of an intense and destructive fire was reduced because the built up fuel loads would be destroyed. At this time the park service was still learning a great deal about fire ecology since most fires that occured within park boundaries were suppressed. More research was conducted in the park and it showed that regular fire intervals were actually healthy for certain ecosystems, since it destroyed dead plants and allowed more space and nutrients for new plants to grow. Currently, Pinnacles does not have its own fire crew, but prescribed burns are still used in the park periodically because it helps to manage invasive species like yellow star thistle.
The twenty-first century brought on new changes to Pinnacles. The last person to document a condor nest in the park was a local rancher who recalled taking an egg in 1898. By 1987, condors had gone extinct in the wild and all the remaining condors were taken into captivity. The first captive bred bird was released in Southern California in 1992 and at Big Sur in 1997 by the Ventana Wildlife Society. In 2003, Pinnacles became a release site for the California Condor. Pinnacles collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ventana Wildlife Society to release 20 to 30 condors over a period of 15 years, while focusing on educating hunters about the danger of lead ammunition. A dedicated group of scientists, park staff, interns and volunteers work year round to monitor, treat and protect the condors at Pinnacles. Although their numbers in the wild have increased to 276 in 2017, they are still critically endangered.
Learn more about California Condors
The most recent update to Pinnacles is its redesignation from National Monument to National Park when in 2013, Pinnacles became the 59th National Park. It was originally designated as a monument because of its unique geologic features such as rock spires and crags that are remnants of volcanic activity millions of years ago. However, the abundance of cultural and natural resources in the park, including its many federally protected species, made it an appropriate candidate for a National Park. The United States Senate and President Obama passed the bill that redesignated Pinnacles to a National Park which included a 3,000 acre expansion of wilderness to be named the Hain wilderness, in honor of the homesteader Schuyler Hain who worked to protect it in the early 1900s. The redesignation has also increased visitation and tourism to nearby communities.
What lies ahead? In an increasingly urban society disconnected from nature, places like Pinnacles remain a haven for folks wishing to relax and enjoy the rejuventating effects of wilderness. But as visitation increases, so does impact on the resources in the park, as over-crowding can damage vegetation and harm wildlife. The park will continue to adapt to changing needs of visitors while seeking to balance its goals of protecting plants and animals that also call this place home.
Last updated: March 22, 2018