San Onofre State Beach

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Coordinates: 33°22′45″N 117°34′21″W / 33.37917°N 117.57250°W / 33.37917; -117.57250

View to the south

San Onofre State Beach is a 3,000-acre (1,214 ha) state park located in San Diego County, California, USA.[1] The beach is 3 miles (5 km) south of the city of San Clemente on Interstate 5 at Basilone Road. The state park is leased to the state of California by the United States Marine Corps. Governor Ronald Reagan established San Onofre State Beach in 1971. With over 2.5 million visitors per year,[2] it is one of the five most-visited state parks in California, hosting swimmers, campers, kayakers, birders, fishermen, off-duty Marines, bicyclists, sunbathers, surfers, and the sacred Native American site of Panhe. It is named after the fourth-century saint Onuphrius.

Located between San Onofre Bluffs and San Onofre Surf Beach is the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which was officially shut down in June 2013.[3][4]

Park attractions[edit]

The rail line for which Trestles is named

The San Onofre Bluffs portion of San Onofre State Beach features 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of sandy beaches with six access trails cut into the bluff above. The campground is along the old U.S. Route 101 adjacent to the sandstone bluffs. The beach is popular with swimmers and surfers. San Onofre includes San Onofre Bluffs and Beach areas; San Onofre Surf Beach, a day use facility; San Mateo campgrounds and day use facility; and Trestles, accessible via a nature trail from San Mateo Campgrounds. Alcohol is banned from all beaches within the State Park.[1]

The park includes a marshy area where San Mateo Creek meets the shoreline and Trestles, a well-known California surfing site. Whales, dolphins and sea lions can be seen offshore from time to time. The park’s coastal terrace is chaparral-covered.[citation needed]


A surfing and fishing camp had been there since the 1920s, before the land was taken by the U.S. government to establish Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine training camp during World War II. Surfers using redwood boards have visited San Onofre since at least the 1940s, including notables Lorrin "Whitey" Harrison, Don Okey, Al Dowden, Tom Wilson, and Bob Simmons.[5]

San Onofre has several surf breaks on its 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of coast, ranging from the beginner’s gentle breaking waves to one of the premiere surf breaks in the United States, Trestles.

  • Trestles - Trestles is inaccessible by vehicle; a long walk from either the north or south end passing under the Trestles Bridge is necessary for access. This world-famous surfing area is known for its consistent waves.
  • Church - Located near Camp Pendleton’s beach resort, Church provides sunbathing and duck watching. The name refers to the long-gone chapel which was located not far from the site.
  • Surf Beach - The "surf beach" area has 'flush' pit toilets and cold showers, but no camping. It is divided by the locality into three breaks spots known as The Point, Old Man’s, and Dogpatch (named from north to south). All perform best on a south swell, though the beach takes any surf and slows it down to a very slow pace. The entire area is covered by a rock reef, often making walking into or out of the water difficult.
  • Trails - Trails is the most southern of surf spots in this region and includes both rock bottom and sandy breaks. Trails is also the last point to camp at San Onofre. Camping is on the bluffs with cold showers and 'flush' pit toilets nearby.


Panhe at San Onofre is an ancient Acjachemen village that is over 8,000 years old and a current sacred, ceremonial, cultural, and burial site for the Acjachemen people. Many Acjachemen people trace their lineage back to Panhe. It is the site of the first baptism in California, and in 1769 saw the first close contact between Spanish explorers, Catholic missionaries, and the Acjachemen people. The United Coalition to Protect Panhe and The City Project advocate for the preservation of the site.[6] In keeping with the Padres’ tradition of naming areas after patron saints, this area was named after the obscure Egyptian, St. Onuphrius. [7]

Toll road controversy[edit]

The Transportation Corridor Agency seeks to construct a six lane toll highway (graded for eight lanes) through San Onofre State Beach/Park and a habitat reserve in Orange County, joining the San Diego Freeway at the Trestles surf break.[8] The Toll Road is supported by business groups and some public officials in Orange County as both a commercial enterprise and a way to ease future traffic congestion. The toll road is opposed by more than two dozen of California’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.,[9] thirty-eight California legislators[10] including California's United States Senator Barbara Boxer,[9] the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council,[11] Defenders of Wildlife, Surfrider Foundation,[11][12] Save Trestles,[13] the California State Parks Foundation, the California State Park and Recreation Commission,[14] the Native American United Coalition to Protect Panhe, The City Project, the Save San Onofre Coalition,[15] and others. Opponents that construction and operation of the toll road would cause irreversible environmental damage, the loss of park camping and recreational areas, and the loss of a site sacred to Native Americans (Panhe), citing studies that show that traffic congestion would actually increase on the San Diego Freeway if the toll road were built through San Onofre Beach.[16][17][18][19][20] A 2007 survey of Orange County voters revealed that while 52% favored some kind of toll road, 66% opposed a route that would cut through San Onofre State Park.[21][22] As part of the effort, at least four groups filed lawsuits with the goal of preventing the toll road from passing through San Onofre State Beach.[23]

On February 6, 2008, the California Coastal Commission denied a Coastal Permit for the route proposed by the TCA that would cut through San Onofre and the reserve, saying that of the eight proposals considered, the San Onofre route was the most environmentally damaging.[8] Had a permit been granted, the 241 Toll Road would have been the first to run through a California state park.[24] The TCA appealed the Coastal Commission's decision to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), calling the highway a matter of national security. On December 18, 2008, the Department of Commerce denied TCA’s appeal, noting that construction through San Onofre was inconsistent with the California Coastal Act.[25] In a release, the DOC stated that at least one reasonable alternative to the project existed, and that the project was not necessary in the interest of national security.[26] On May 22, 2013, environmentalists filed a new lawsuit to stop the building of the Toll Road in segments, a tactic they say is an illegitimate end-run around by the TCA after the Toll Road was defeated in 2008.[27]

The steelhead trout in San Mateo Creek (the last free-flowing stream in the area), its tributaries, and in the waters off Trestles and San Onofre have been identified by environmentalists as one of several species that would suffer irreparable harm if the toll road were built along the proposed route though San Onofre State Beach, and in particular, the San Mateo campground and San Mateo Creek areas.[28] In February, 1999 Southern Steelhead Trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) were discovered in the creek by Toby Shackelford, making San Mateo Creek the only watercourse south of Malibu Creek in Los Angeles County to host this endanged species.[29] Steelhead have historically spawned in the creek, whose upper reaches also support a population of rainbow trout, the form taken by Oncorhyncus mykiss when it remains land-locked. There are about 11 miles (18 km) of streams in the watershed that provide suitable habitat for steelhead trout.[30] Significantly, DNA analysis has shown that San Mateo Creek steelhead are genetically native southern steelhead, and not hatchery stocked fish. In February 2010, San Onofre State Park officers discovered a Golden Beaver (Castor canadensis subauratus) at the river mouth of the San Mateo Creek.[31] According to State Parks officials, the species was once native to the San Mateo Creek area. They say that the animal surely came from one of the streams that flows into the San Mateo Creek. A report on the fauna of San Diego County by Dr. David Hoffman in 1866 stated "Of the animal kingdom we have a fair variety: the grizzly bear, the antelope, the deer, the polecat, the beaver, the wildcat, the otter, the fox, the badger, the hare, the squirrel, and coyotes innumerable."[32] Environmentalists make the point that the beaver is part of a thriving watershed ecosystem that deserves the highest level of protection.[28]

Former nude beach: "Trail 6"[edit]

Nudity is prohibited at all parts of San Onofre State Beach,[33] A traditional "clothing optional area"[34] was formerly located at the extreme south end of San Onofre Bluffs beach, accessed via Trail number 6.[35] Since March 2010, park rangers have been citing park visitors for nudity, following the 2009 defeat of a long-running legal challenge by a nudist group.[33][36][37]


  1. ^ a b San Onofre State Beach - State of California
  2. ^ Anton, Mike (2008-07-05). "San Onofre's new bare necessity: a suit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  3. ^ Southern California Edison website
  4. ^ Lovett, Ian (2012-07-04). "San Onofre Could Hint at a Non-nuclear Future". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ San Onofre Surfing Club: History of the San Onofre Surfing Club (1974).
  6. ^ Save San Onofre and Native American Sacred Site Panhe
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Weikel, Dan; Reyes, David (2008-02-07). "Panel rejects beach toll road". Los Angeles Times. pp. A–1. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  9. ^ a b Reyes, David (2008-04-17). "Toll road foes apply pressure". Los Angeles Times. pp. B–3. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  10. ^ Volzke, Jonathan (2008-08-07). "More Politicians Weighing on the Toll Road". San Clemente Times. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  11. ^ a b Rodgers, Terry (2008-08-14). "Suit filed on toll road report". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  12. ^ Rosenblatt, Susannah (2008-08-15). "Environmental groups sue federal agencies over San Onofre toll road". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Brokaw, Nick (2008-08-14). "Personnel Profile: Bobby Shriver". Capital Weekly. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  15. ^ City Wire (2008-08-14). "Environmentalists Sue Over Toll Road Report". Channel 10 News - San Diego. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ OCTA's 2006 Long Range Transportation Plan, PEIR, at pp. 5-5 and 5-11, July 26, 2006.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Outposts". Los Angeles Times. 2008-12-18. 
  21. ^ Conaughton, Gig (2007-10-05). "Parks panel survey says voters oppose toll road". North County Times. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  22. ^ Calif. toll road hearing focuses on security
  23. ^ Volzke, Jonathan (2008-08-20). "Another Toll Road Lawsuit". San Clemente Times. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  24. ^ Rodgers, Terry (2008-02-07). "Toll road proposal voted down". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  25. ^ Rosenblatt, Susannah (2008-12-19). "O.C. toll road hits dead end in D.C.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  26. ^ "Decision and Findings" (PDF). US Secretary of Commerce. 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^ Ed Leibowitz (1999-10-03). "Saving the Steelhead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-07-03. 
  30. ^ "San Mateo Creek Enhancement Plan". San Diego Trout. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  31. ^ Alexis Henry (2010-02-05). "Trestles can now add 'beavers' to list of special things". Surfers Village Global Surf News. Retrieved 2010-07-03. 
  32. ^ Clifford L. Graves (July 1964). "An Early San Diego Physician: David Hoffman". The Journal of San Diego History. Retrieved 2010-07-03. 
  33. ^ a b Carcamo, Cindy (2009-11-25). "State spent over $40,000 to fight nudists". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2009-12-22.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Orange_County_Register" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  34. ^ Russell W. Cahill Memorandum on 'Clothing Optional' Beaches
  35. ^
  36. ^ Cover Up: Nudists Targeted for Ticketing (NBC San Diego)
  37. ^ Opinion: Naturist Action Committee vs. California State Department of Parks & Recreation

External links[edit]