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Santa Catalina Island is a rocky island off the coast of the U.S. state of California. The island is 22 miles long and eight miles across at its greatest width. The island is located about 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles, California. The highest point on the island is 2097 ft. Mt. Orizaba. Part of the Channel Islands of California archipelago, Catalina falls under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County. Most of the island is owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy. The total population as of the 2000 census was 3,696 persons with almost 85 percent living in its only city of Avalon (pop. 3,127, with another 195 south of the city outside of the city limits). The second center of population is the unincorporated town of Two Harbors, in the north, with a population of 298. Development occurs also at the smaller settlements Rancho Escondido and Middle Ranch. The remaining population is scattered over the island between the two population centers.



There's a reason Catalina Island has been said to have "the perfect climate." Catalina boasts a year-round Mediterranean climate, with warm, sunny days and cool evening breezes. In the summer, the average temperature is 75 degrees, while the mild winter average temperature is 65 degrees. The sun shines an average of 267 days a year, and the average rainfall is 14 inches per year.


            Jan       Feb      Mar       Apr       May      Jun       Jul        Aug      Sep      Oct       Nov      Dec

Max Air 63         62         60         65         67         70         74         71         74         70         68         64

Min Air  49         48         50         53         54         56         60         61         60         58         54         46

Water    58         59         59         60         62         63         68         69         71         69         64         60



The island is very rich in quartz, to the point that some beaches on the seaward side have silvery-grey sand. Catalina is primarily composed of two distinct rock units, Catalina Schist from the Cretaceous and volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks from the Tertiary period.



About 400 species of native plants grow on the island. Six species, subspecies or varieties are endemic and can be found only on Catalina Island. These plants are: Catalina Manzanita, Catalina mahogany, Catalina Dudleya, St. Catherine’s lace, Santa Catalina bedstraw, and Santa Catalina Island ironwood. These plants may be seen at the island's Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens and the newly remodeled Golf Gardens miniature golf course. 



The island is home to five native land mammals: the Island Fox subspecies of California Ground Squirrel, the Santa Catalina Island Harvest Mouse, the Santa Catalina Island Deer Mouse, and the Ornate Shrew. Only one Ornate Shrew was ever found, from a now-developed spring area above Avalon. Shrews are difficult to capture and may survive in wetter areas of the island. Sea otters are now extinct on Santa Catalina Island and surrounding waters because of the effects of the Aleut hunts. These brutal hunts took place for months in the 19th century, with the slaughtering of close to one hundred otters per night. Today, the only substantial population of sea otters in the area is off the northern Channel Islands.


The Island Fox is an endangered endemic species. In 1999, all but 100 out of 1,300 foxes on Catalina Island were wiped out because of a virulent strain of canine distemper. Following a successful recovery program which included captive breeding, distemper vaccinations and population monitoring, the Catalina fox community has been restored to more than 400 individuals—a number deemed by the Conservancy scientists to be a self-sufficient population. However, mysterious, usually fatal ear tumors continue to plague the Catalina fox. Three Catalina Island Conservancy wildlife biologists continue to monitor the population through pit tagging, trapping and inspection.


The Conservancy is also working to restore bald eagles to the island, with several chicks hatching in 2007. These would edge out an invasive golden eagle population that threatens the native Island Fox. DDT, which was used before as a pesticide, softened the shell of the egg, which made it harder for the egg to reach its hatching.


The island has been home to a population of approximately 150 American bison since 1924. Originally, fourteen bison were brought to the island for the filming of the movie The Vanishing American, though the scenes with the bison in them did not make it into the final cut of the film. Due to cost overruns, the film company decided to leave the bison on the island instead of bringing them back to the mainland.


In the waters surrounding the island, there are schools of fish like garibaldi, Yellowtail, Kelp Bass, White sea bass, Giant sea bass, Leopard sharks, blacksmiths, opal eyes, sheep heads, ling cods, bat rays, horn sharks, mackerel, bonito, barracuda, herring, anchovies, sardines, and many more.



Santa Catalina Island has served as the location for the filming of over 500 motion pictures, documentaries, television programs and commercials over the past 90 years.  Of those 500, approximately 300 were motion picture productions.  Beginning as early as 1911 and continuing with great momentum through the Silent Film era and the introduction of sound to motion pictures, the Island served as location for more than 225 films. 


Many famous actors and celebrities were spotted on the Island and off the coast in their palatial yachts.  The Hotel St. Catherine ran a weekly column in the local newspaper called “Lobbying at the Hotel St. Catherine.”  Each week, Harry Grattan, proprietor of the St. Catherine’s gift shop, would report his celebrity sightings.  Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Joe Schenck, Betty Grable, Norma Shearer, Irving Thalberg, Richard Arlen and Johnny Weismuller were all frequent visitors. Many celebrities and actors worked and played on Catalina during the 1930s.  Some developed life-long love affairs with the Island and its surrounding waters.  Charlie Chaplin and his wife Paulette Goddard were frequent visitors and loved angling for marlin and tuna around the Island.  James Cagney and his wife were known to anchor their yacht Marian in Descanso Bay.  Cecil B. De Mille, a prominent film director who filmed at least three pictures on the Island was quoted in The Catalina Islander as saying that Catalina is “the only place where I can get away to work amid real inspiration.”


Another interesting and lasting impression of this unique history was the introduction of the North American Bison to the Island.   Many believe that the bison were brought to the Island for the production of The Vanishing American, the film version of Zane Grey’s classic novel, released by the Lasky Film Corporation in 1925.  However, in watching the film it appears that it was not filmed on Catalina Island.  Perhaps the Island scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, but nonetheless a herd of North American Bison has been roaming the hills of Catalina since December of 1924. The introduction of sound to motion pictures ushered in a new era of film production for Hollywood and Catalina Island.  The Island continued to be a prime location for many of Hollywood’s best filmmakers.  One of the first “talkie” movies filmed on the Island was Condemned starring Ronald Colman in 1929.  The following years saw such classic films as Island of Lost Souls (1932), Rain (1932), Treasure Island (1933), Captain Blood (1935), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), and Captains Courageous (1937) being filmed on the Island.  The frequency of filming on the Island during this period introduced several of Hollywood’s screen favorites to the charms of Santa Catalina.