PORT HUENEME — Southern California’s coast has a long and rich maritime history, some of which includes the cities of Los Angeles, Newport Beach and San Diego serving as an entry point for goods and services during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two of those ports – Los Angeles and San Diego – grew to become vital cogs in the U.S. economy. A third – often less advertised – port where goods and services enter the United States from the Pacific Rim is the Port of Port Hueneme (pronounced Y-nee-mee).
Port Hueneme currently serves as a commercial harbor. There are no recreational boating venues at Port Hueneme, which distinguishes it from harbors in Los Angeles and San Diego but mimics the Port of Long Beach.
The port on the southwestern edge of Ventura County is actually one of Southern California’s oldest maritime venues. Thomas Bard, who served Pres. Abraham Lincoln as Assistant Secretary of War during the Civil War, moved to California in 1865 and, before the end of the decade, discovered a natural submarine canyon along the Port Hueneme coast. The canyon apparently measured about 1,000 feet deep and existed within 300 feet of a proposed harbor.
Bard quickly took advantage of his discovery, building a long wharf along the canyon in 1871. The wharf was both a primary source of transportation in the southern half of Ventura County through 1898 and, between 1871 and 1895, the Pacific coast’s second largest grain shipping port. But, most importantly, the concept of building a port (and the serendipitous discovery of a deepwater canyon) spawned from local farmers seeking alternate forms of transportation to deliver their goods to Los Angeles.
The wharf area eventually became the Port of Port Hueneme.
Sources: BardMansion.org, PortHueneme.org
Photo: U.S. Navy