Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano

Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano

by | Jun 27, 2019

Dana Point is a prominent headland located near San Juan Capistrano, California. The neighboring community of Dana Point, named after the headland, is located 59 miles (95 km) southeast of Los Angeles, and 65 miles (105 km) northwest of San Diego. Dana Point is bordered by San Juan Capistrano to the northeast, San Clemente to the southeast, Laguna Beach to the northwest, and Laguna Niguel to the north.

The Dana Point headland was named after Richard Henry Dana Jr. who was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts. He is most well known as the author of the classic seafaring memoir Two Years Before the Mast. Dana was an undergraduate at Harvard College when he contracted measles, which in his case led to ophthalmia. Worsening vision inspired him to enlist as a merchant seaman, and on August 14, 1834, he departed Boston aboard the small brig Pilgrim, bound for Alta California, at that time still a part of Mexico. This voyage brought Dana to a number of coastal settlements and missions in California (including Monterey, San Buenaventura, San Pedro, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and San Francisco). Dana spent much of his time in California at San Diego’s Point Loma curing cowhides and loading them onto the ship.

The massive headland at Dana Point was an important landmark for early navigators. In the early 1800s, the headland was used primarily as grazing land by the Spaniards and soon became a popular stop for ships involved in the hide trade with nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano. Dana visited the area in 1835 while on the Pilgrim collecting hides for shipment to Boston in exchange for merchandise needed by the ranchos and missions. Five years later, in his classic story, he described the high promontory with its natural harbor and told of tossing cowhides acquired from the mission off the cliff, from which they sailed like kites to the small beach below. They were then loaded onto small boats and rowed through the surf to the anchored brig. Dana provided one of the few existing narratives describing the life of mostly illiterate ordinary sailors in the 19th century since most of what we know today came from the perspective of ship officers. Read more here and here. Explore more of Dana Point here:

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