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CIVR Blog: Volunteering on Catalina Island

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Removing non-native plants is a key element in preserving the island's native ecology

Removing non-native plants is a key element in preserving the island’s native ecology, volunteers learn more about efforts to preserve native plants during Mornings at the Nursery.

Catalina Island offers a wealth of experiences and adventures that take a lifetime to completely explore. While Avalon’s quaint charms, intriguing shops and picturesque waterfront appeal to nearly every traveler, the interior of the island offers a wellspring of natural beauty, including spectacular seascapes, dramatic terrain and flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.

Seeing the interior of the island should be part of every Catalina Island vacation, but many island visitors never explore beyond the tiny town of Avalon, California. Several tours take visitors to the interior – ranging from bus tours to high-adventure off-road expeditions. Guided hiking trips, kayaking adventures and more are also available.

One great way to see the interior and help preserve Catalina Island at the same time is by joining the Catalina Island Conservancy on one of their volunteer expeditions. Every Thursday, Mornings at the Nursery offers transportation to the interior and the chance to learn more about Catalina Island’s unique flora. The trip leaves at 7:15 am and volunteers spend several hours at the James H. Ackerman Native Plant Nursery before returning to Avalon around noon. Advance notice is necessary, call the Conservancy at (310) 510-2595, ext. 12.

CIVR Blog: Two Harbors, Catalina Island

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Casa-Santa-Rosa,-Two-Harbors

Most visitors to Catalina Island experience only a tiny portion of this Southern California resort destination. For the vast majority, Avalon is the only vision of this Channel Island that they will see – and while this quaint village has many charms, it’s only in exploring the rest of the island that Santa Catalina truly reveals herself.

Besides Avalon, the most visited portion of the island is Two Harbors, the picturesque community located near the West End of Catalina Island. So named because of the twin harbors that create the isthmus of Catalina, Two Harbors is an adventures’ nirvana. While you can get a glimpse of remote outpost on either a bus or boat tour, the only way to truly experience the isthmus is to spend a few days soaking up its unique atmosphere. With less than 200 year round residents, Two Harbors is arguably the remote and isolated community in Los Angeles County. During the winter, that makes it an ideal destination for those looking to get away from it all. In the summer – and when the weather makes it feel like summer – the population at the isthmus swells to several thousand, with boaters, campers  and adventurers all eager to relax and enjoy hiking, snorkeling, mountain biking, scuba diving, kayaking, stand-up paddling and much more.

CIVR Blog: Water on Catalina Island

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CIVR conserve_water

For most mainland residents, Catalina Island is a vacation paradise replete with dramatic natural scenery, compelling adventures and an array of relaxing activities. With the Mediterranean charm of Avalon and the eco-adventures in the Catalina Island interior this resort island is just about ideal.

Like the rest of California, however, Catalina Island is facing a few challenges and the biggest of those is water – particularly the supply of fresh water. Catalina Island’s water comes from combination of underground aquifers and a desalination plant. While that plant helps supplement the natural water supply, it cannot meet the annual water needs of the island – making a steady supply of rain essential. While Catalina’s residents and visitors have responded by conserving water, Mother Nature hasn’t been as cooperative as it was hoped, making continued conservation even more important.

Whether you are visiting Catalina for the short term or living there for the long-term, there are many things you can do to conserve water while California’s drought continues. Catalina Island Vacation Rentals has compiled an extensive list of water saving tips that you and your family can implement to help save Catalina’s limited water supply. If everyone continues to work together, the island’s water supply will be available for generations to come.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Rubber Ducky Derby

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Photo credit: http://shire2011.blogspot.com

Photo credit: http://shire2011.blogspot.com

Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island is home to a wide array of creatures. Bat rays and spider crabs hunt the bottom; calico bass and opal eye cruise placidly and schools of bait fish occasionally churn the water. Gulls bob at the surface, greedy for a tossed French fry, while sea lions frolic and forage. Catalina Island’s human residents and visitors have their own impact, with vessels large and small plying the harbor and children and adults alike playing on the beach.

While most of the sights in Avalon Harbor are an everyday occurrence, once a year a unique flock of invaders takes over the harbor. On Sunday, April 12, hundreds of bright yellow rubber duckies will be dumped into Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island, to race valiantly toward the shore. Frequently helped by the Avalon Harbor Department and their trusty firehoses, the duckies will battle ferociously as they bob to the finish line. The Avalon Rubber Ducky Derby is a fundraiser for the local children’s theater troupe, Kids at Play, and also includes a corporate race and decorated duck competition. Adopting a duck – or a flock of ducks – is open to residents and visitors alike and includes the satisfaction of supporting a good cause as well as the thrill of cheering your duck to the finish. The fun all starts at noon on Avalon’s South Beach.

CIVR Blog: Hollywood stars on catalina

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The Catalina Island Museum will soon be moving from the Casino Building

The Catalina Island Museum will soon be moving from the Casino Building

With its enviable location just 20-odd miles off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island has long been both backlot and playground for Hollywood. The island has been stand-in for dozens of locations – from the South Seas to the eastern seaboard, from tropical paradise to quaint small town. Every once in awhile, the island even gets to play itself.

Location scouts haven’t been the only ones who’ve had a Hollywood love affair with Catalina Island. The island’s proximity to work and home have made it a perfect getaway for the stars for generations. Many Hollywood stars continue to getaway to Catalina, appreciating both the island’s charms and the nonchalant way they can expect to be treated, but it was during Hollywood’s golden era that Catalina really earned its reputation as a getaway for Hollywood’s elite. Charlie Chapman, Johnny Weissmuller and John Wayne were regular visitors, as were Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and many more. Marilyn Monroe lived on the island for a time, back when she was Norma Jean Dougherty.

Hollywood’s love affair with Catalina Island is the subject of the Catalina Island Museum’s current exhibition, Escape to Catalina: Hollywood’s Biggest Stars on Catalina Island, which is currently on display. This exhibit is the last for the museum’s historic location in the Casino Building – in the summer of 2015, the new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building will open on Metropole Avenue.

The Catalina Island Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the ground floor of the Catalina Casino. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and free for everyone 15 and younger. Annual memberships are available at a variety of levels.

CIVR Blog: Catalina island wildflowers

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Catalina wildflowers

While Catalina Island’s mild winter storms have not provided enough water to end the island’s drought, they have been successful in nourishing some of the island’s more colorful residents. Wildflower season is in full swing on the island and a rainbow of blooms has erupted.

The red and yellow of introduced geraniums and broom are readily visible from Avalon, but discovering the full breadth of the Catalina Island wildflower season can only be done by exploring further afield in the island’s interior. Intrepid explorers will find shooting stars and blue dicks, California poppies and blue larkspur along with lupine and monkey flower and much more.

The Catalina Airport in the Sky is a great start for a wildflower hike, as is Little Harbor, on the island’s windward side. The Catalina Conservancy offers the Wildlands Shuttle for transportation to the interior – don’t forget your hiking permit. Several tour companies also offer interior tours and the Conservancy’s Jeep Eco-Tours are a popular way to explore the interior, learn more about the island’s ecology and support the conservation of the island at the same time. If getting to the interior is not an option on your next spring Catalina trip but you would still like to explore Catalina’s wildflowers, visit Avalon’s Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Art Fair

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Catalina art fair and exhibition

Catalina art fair and exhibition

From plein air masters to amateur photographers, Catalina Island inspires creativity. The island’s natural beauty, dramatic seascapes and the quaint charm of Avalon all call out to be immortalized and for generations artists have answered that call.

Thanks to the Catalina Art Association, art fans and artists have two chances to celebrate art on the island. The Catalina Festival of Art, scheduled this year for Sept. 18-20, has a nearly six decade history, making it one of the longest running events on the island. Spring has brought an additional event with the Catalina Art Fair and Exhibition. Held each year on Easter weekend, the CAFÉ show, while smaller than the fall festival, still brings the wonder of art to Avalon’s picturesque waterfront.

Scheduled this year for April 3 to 5, the Catalina Art Fair and Exhibition has become a popular addition to the Avalon event calendar. Artists and other vendor set up booths along front street, more formally known as Crescent Avenue, Avalon’s waterfront promenade. In addition to shopping, art fans will also discover children’s activities, educational opportunities and live entertainment.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Medical Center

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Catalina Island Medical Center is located on Falls Canyon Road

Catalina Island Medical Center is located on Falls Canyon Road

With about 4,000 year round residents, Catalina Island is not only one of the top Southern California vacation destinations, it’s also a vibrant community filled with children and parents, teachers and students, employees and bosses. Like any community, Catalina has a school, churches and a hospital. Now known as Catalina Island Medical Center, Avalon’s hospital was built in 1960 to serve the needs of the island’s residents and visitors – a job it continues to do to this day.

CIMC employs three full-time physicians, who see patients in its doctors’ offices as well as in the hospital. The 12-bed hospital has a laboratory, radiology department, emergency room and physical therapy department as well as a in-patient care for the island’s skilled nursing patients. Routine medical care is handled Monday through Friday at the Medical Group Office, while the emergency department in the hospital is staffed 24 hours a day. While more severe trauma cases are flown to the mainland via specially equipped helicopter, the vast majority of cases can be addressed on the island. Catalina Island Medical Center sees several thousand patient visits and more than 1200 emergency room visits a year.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Conservancy Ball

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The Catalina Island Conservancy Ball will help support efforts to the protect the Catalina Island fox. Photo by Jack Baldelli, Courtesy Catalina Island Conservancy.

The Catalina Island Conservancy Ball will help support efforts to the protect the Catalina Island fox. Photo by Jack Baldelli, Courtesy Catalina Island Conservancy.

Catalina Island’s unspoiled natural beauty has intrigued generations – and thanks to the Catalina Conservancy, it will continue to offer a respite from the unbridled development on the mainland. Charged with preserving the island in its natural state in perpetuity, the Catalina Conservancy is responsible for nearly 90 percent of the island.

Supported by grants and donations, the non-profit Conservancy is also the beneficiary of the one of the most elegant events on the island. Each year, the Catalina Conservancy Ball fills the Casino Ballroom with tuxedoes and ball gowns for a gala event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year marks the 20th Catalina Conservancy Ball and organizers are celebrating with an emerald theme and a tagline of Leaping Lizards.

With more than $4.5 million raised over the last two decades, the Conservancy Ball is one of the organization’s most important events. The first ball was co-hosted by the Corsair Yacht Club, and this year the club will reprise its role. The evening will include dinner and dancing as well as a silent and live auction. The fun begins at 6 p.m. on April 11. Invitations may be requested here.

CIVR Blog: How big is Catalina Island

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Catalina Island's coastline stretches over 54 miles.

Catalina Island’s coastline stretches over 54 miles.

“How big is Santa Catalina Island?” is one of the most common questions asked by visitors. How to answer the question depends on just what parameters you want to measure.

One of the easiest answers is length. Catalina stretches about 22 miles from the East End, past Avalon, to Land’s End, on the island’s rugged West End. Width is a harder question to answer. At Two Harbors, Catalina narrows to its narrowest point — the Isthmus is just about half a mile wide. On the other extreme is Long Point, where about eight miles separate the windward side from the leeward side.

Catalina’s coastline is about 54 miles and offers everything from gentle sand beaches and secluded bays to dramatic cliffs and imposing pinnacles.

With steep valleys and sheer cliffs as well as gentle meadows and compelling flora, Catalina Island’s interior is a fascinating expanse wilderness that stretches across about 75 square miles. As any hiker, mountain biker or marathoner knows, those 75 square miles are far from flat. The island has dramatic elevation changes and Mt. Orizaba, the island’s highest point, reaches 2,097 feet above sea level.

However you measure it, Catalina Island is big enough to explore for a lifetime.