Surf Beach, Santa Ynez River Estuary

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Surf Beach, Santa Ynez River Estuary

by | Aug 20, 2020

Surf Beach is within Vandenberg Air Force Base and extends south-southwest for about 4.5 miles (7.3 km) from the mouth of the Santa Ynez River Estuary to Spring Canyon, about 9 miles (14.5 km) west of Lompoc and 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Point Arguello, California. Sections of Surf Beach were closed every summer during the nesting season of the western snowy plover, a bird listed under the Endangered Species Act. In 2019, after Lompoc community members raised environmental justice concerns, the California Coastal Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Air Force began an experimental program that enabled access to Surf Beach all summer.

Surf Beach is named after the historical community of Surf. The railway town grew to accommodate the personnel needed to maintain the trains and tracks after Southern Pacific Railroad built a station here for its Coast Line in 1900. The population of the town peaked at 40, with most residents being employed by the railroad. As trains modernized, Surf experienced depopulation to the point where Southern Pacific was only operating a telegraph station. The telegraph station closed in 1985, and the unstaffed Amtrak station is currently the only remaining structure.

Surf Beach and its adjoining coastal area was a dangerous place for ship travel in the time before radar navigational systems made seafaring safer. There are about 30 recorded shipwrecks along the Surf Beach coast. The schooner Sibyl Marston was built by W.A. Boole & Sons of Oakland, California, and was the largest wooden steam schooner built on the U.S. west coast. On 12 January 1909, Sybil Marston ran aground in a storm about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Surf. She was carrying 1,100,000 board feet (3,000 cu m) of lumber. Lompoc residents salvaged the lumber and used it to begin a town lumberyard. Several houses built in Lompoc used lumber from the shipwreck. Portions of the wreck can still be seen buried in the sand. Read more here and here. Explore more of Surf Beach here:

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