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California's Underwater Parks

The Underwater Parks of California are located primarily along the coastline, stretching from Mendocino County in the north to San Diego County in the south.  However, four of the underwater parks, Mono Lake, D.L. Bliss, Emerald Bay-Lake Tahoe and Lake Perris are located in the interior of the state.  Nine of the underwater parks and reserves have overlapping marine protected area boundaries.  For example, Point Lobos Reserve and the 1,680 acre underwater preserve at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park also come under the protection of the federally managed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the state managed Sea Otter Game Refuge. Manchester State Park is the Arena Rock Marine National Preserve.

Beginning in 1960, Californians began to set aside underwater areas for protection. The Point Lobos State Reserve was the first underwater park in the nation. The California Department of Parks and Recreation's underwater parks program was established in 1968 to preserve the best and most unique representative examples of California's natural underwater ecosystems found in coastal and inland waters. Our marine managed areas fall under the jurisdiction of several state agencies including the Department of Parks and Recreation,  the Department of Fish and Game, the State Lands Commission,  the state Water Quality Board, and several municipal governments.  In the 1970's the federal government inaugurated a national marine sanctuary program establishing four of the thirteen sanctuaries in California.

Beyond the rich marine resources available to prehistoric people and the natural resources exploited by ranchers, many of California’s underwater parks are also shipwreck graveyards. The state’s 1,100 miles of coastline have troubled mariners with treacherous rocks immediately off our shores for years. The SS Pomona,  Frolic, Norlina,  the British freighter Pacific Enterprise  and many other vessels have been lost off coastal California and inland.  As for the future of underwater parks program, DPR has more than 60 proposals in the marine and estuarine environments. Select from the right panel for more information on California's Underwater Parks.

Garibaldi fish (Hypsypops rubicundus) can be seen in Crystal Cove and Doheny underwater parks. The Garibaldi is the Official State Marine Fish of California.

Underwater Archaeology Online Articles:

California's Maritime Heritage

History Beneath the Sea

Pomona Historic Shipwreck Project

The Sterling on the Sacramento Riverfront

Historic Dories of Emerald Bay

Devil-Fish to Archaeology: Diving at the SS Pomona Shipwreck

Navy Corsair Fighter at Crystal Cove