Morro Rock: Gibraltar of the Pacific

MORRO BAY—The Southern Coast of the Iberian Peninsula and the Central Coast of California have something in common: a tall, mounded rock formation which serves as a natural phenomenon and tourist attraction.

California boaters, thankfully, don’t have to navigate all the way to Gibraltar to take in one of nature’s greatest rock forms. Morro Rock is certainly one of California’s most recognizable landmarks. It stands 576 feet tall and sits where California meets the Pacific Ocean. It was declared a historical landmark in the late 1960s; the designation meant Morro Rock would no longer be quarried, something which had been happening since the   1800s.

Morro Rock, according to the website,, came into existence about 23 million years ago. It was part of a volcanic network known as Nine Sisters; the network extended from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo.

The rock – not to be confused with the tourist attraction jail in the San Francisco Bay – is also home to the peregrine falcon, one of North America’s largest falcons. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program says peregrine falcons can reach a wingspan of 43 inches.

“Peregrine falcons are also the fastest [animals] in the world,” the Morro Bay National Estuary Program website states about the bird. “During their characteristic high-speed hunting dive – called a stoop – they have been clock at 242 mph.”

Peregrine falcons were added to the California Endangered Species List in 1970, according to the Morro Bay National Estuary Program website.

“There were only five pairs left in the state and Morro Rock was one of only two remaining nesting sites in San Luis Obispo County,” the website stated.

The apex bird was taken off the Federal Endangered Species List in 1999 and California Endangered Species List in 2009.

Climbing on any portion of Morro Rock, by the way, is prohibited.


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