Charlie HeckComment

Otter chillin’ in Morro Bay

Charlie HeckComment
Otter chillin’ in Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a small coastal city in California along historic Route 1. It's known for Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound protruding from the sea in front of your very own eyes. It’s also home to some incredible sea creatures, hiking spots and parks galore!

A little history...Morro Rock

For many millennia before the European’s arrived, the Chumash people lived on this central coast. Seasonally, they traveled inland to trade their local goods. Then you know how that history turned out…Spain, Mexico and now the United States.

Morro Rock is not naturally connected to the coast; it once sat solely in the sea. In the early 1900s, people headed west and eventually fishing became a very lucrative industry for this sleepy town.

Because we need to mess with nature, the US Army Corp of Engineers decided to harbor it out and connect the rock to the mainland. The base of the rock is open to visitors with ample park but be warned - it’s incredible windy and you cannot hike the rock without a permit! Secure your sunglasses, hats and bags.

Back to the Bay

The bay is an important stop on the Pacific Flyway, providing seasonal feeding grounds for more than a hundred species of migratory birds, sometimes numbering in the thousands. This makes this central California coast destination a must for birding and other sealifers.

Morro Bay State Park looks out over the bay to wind-sculpted sand dunes, has a beautiful nature museum and acres of coastal land to explore.

At Morro Estuary Natural Preserve, 800-acres of fresh wetlands mix with ocean tides. Estuaries are rich and productive habitats, providing spawning grounds and nurseries for numerous wetland wildlife species.

But what is the bay’s most famous residents? Those would be the precious pups that are known as the Morro Bay sea otters. Sea otters were so heavily hunted in the 1800s that by the turn of the century, they were thought to be extinct along the California coast. According to Morro Estuary, in the 1930s, a small group of otters were spotted along the coast of Big Sur. This small group was protected and the decedents of that group are the same ones that visit the bay today.

Fun facts about sea otters:

  • A group of sea otters is called a raft.

  • Sea otters have very sensitive fur. They groom themselves constantly. When their fur is dirty, they have trouble absorbing the air they need to keep their body warm. This makes tragic events like oil spills and contamination deadly for them.

  • Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal - up to 1,000,000 hairs on just one square inch of their bodies!

  • Sea urchins stain sea otters’ teeth purple. These snack packs have a pigment called echinochrome that can eventually stain the otters’ teeth (even their bones!!) purple.

  • Sea otters use a tool to help them hunt and feed. Very few animals on earth have evolved to use a tool to help make their lives easier. By wedging a rock between their chest and “armpit,” otters can crack open shells to feed on their delish delicacies.

  • And finally - to keep from drifting apart while they snooze, sea otters often sleep holding paws.

The otters are most definitely my favorite reason for my Baycation but really this town is just quite lovely and a lovely look at what a little protection can do to a species.

Charlie has over 10 years experience in social media, creative copy and multimedia, including a 4-year stint in the government, making science cool and accessible to the general public. She is now the main lady behind Checkmark Creative, a marketing boutique for the small biz and freelancer, based in Long Beach, CA.