John Vonderlin: Coast Survey Map/Ano Nuevo Harbor


Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

With your just having posted all those links to the Ano Nuevo General plan, this might be a good time to look at the Coast Survey map of the area from 1854. The Coast Survey, originally the “Survey of the Coast,” started in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson, to map the coast of the United States, and eventually folded into the present day National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (N.O.A.A.),  has online Archives of their historic maps going back to the 1700’s at this website:
Coast Survey Partners. Chart Carriage Requirements. Report a Charting Discrepancy The Office of Coast Survey’s Historical Map & Chart Collection contains over abstract.htm

   The map of the Ano Nuevo area I’ve attached ScreenShots from is one of the more then 20,000 at this website.  I wanted to share my examinations of this map, which is entitled the “Preliminary Surveys of Harbors on the Western Coast of the United States,”  and its collection number is “352-00-184.” You can can access it by typing either of these in the Seach boxes..
    It was when I started looking at this map fully magnified, that I started to notice some interesting details. First, here’s the progression of screenviews you’ll see as you zero in on this wonderful hundred and fifty year old document.
[Images above: Full map, Map legend, Ano Nuevo Harbor section]
    These first two close-ups show San Mateo’s southern coastal gateway, or perhaps gate would have the more accurate connotations given the part they played in Coastside development. This is the famous stretch of steep, unstable bluffs that forced buggies, stages and eventually even automobiles to dash along the beach at low tides to enter or leave the isolated southern Coastside. “The History Dude” of Santa Cruz gives a talk about the Waddell Bluffs, which span this magnified view, that is entitled:
Waddell’s Bluff: How a Big Lump of Santa Cruz Mudstone Changed the History of Our World
[Images above:  Waddell to Alligator Captioned and Uncaptioned]
   On a more mundane level, if you look carefully, you can see the two parallel dotted lines on the beach that the artist/scientist uses to denote the “Coast Road.”  While this dramatic part of the route has been referred to in many books and newspaper articles, they never mention at what point travelers would get on and off the beach from it. I think I now know where, and as usual I was wrong in my initial theorizing.
   The 1864 map doesn’t show exactly where the sand to solid ground point was on the southern end of this often wild and wooly traverse, but it’s easy to figure out. Although it only shows the dotted lines crossing Waddell Creek close to the ocean and then disappearing because of the edge of the map, by looking at the modern coast on California Coastal Records project
(Pictures #6403, 6404) you can see there is a convenient slope to get off the beach about a hundred yards south of the creek. If that route isn’t taken, the slope off the beach gets progressively steeper and higher and much less likely to have been the way. 
  Of course exactly where they would transition from the sand to solid ground must have varied with the stream’s course. Picture #7219057 (1972 picture accessed by clicking Time Comparison Box for CCRP Picture #6404) shows what they might have faced when the stream hugged the hill to the south before flowing into the ocean.
   The ScreenShot of the magnified map also shows that Alligator Rock, the curving sweep of rock jutting offshore, up the coast from Waddell Creek, hasn’t changed much in 150 years. The more expansive sand beach then, as compared to now, explains the viability of this route way back then. The Alligator Rock area was known as “Cape Horn,” by the locals at that time because of its similarities to the difficulty in passage as the same-named tip of South America. It was also the site of the experimental grading by the Ocean Shore Railroad that John Schmale shared pictures of.
   The black bar to the north of Alligator Rock marks the San Mateo / Santa Cruz boundary, as designated in 1868, five years after the map was made.
   The next ScreenShot, reaching further up the beach to the north, answers several questions I’ve had. There is an old road on the Coastways property that I had thought might have been the ingress and egress point to and from the clifftop and the beach.  At least at the time of the map, the road passed the Coastways road site, and went along the beach all the way to Ano Nuevo Creek, where it started up the hill. Given today’s conditions along this northerly stretch of the beach, this would have been a terrifying ride, with its sheer, unclimbable cliffs that are regularly pounded by waves during any sort of high tide or storm. Even though the map shows a much wider beach one hundred fifty years ago, this must have given travelers a thrill even in the best of conditions. It must have still been that way fifty years later, because during the automobile run to Santa Cruz, I sent you an article about, it mentioned a mile-and-a-half beach traverse was necessary. That fits the Ano Nuevo Creek to just south of Waddell Creek route shown on the map just perfectly.
[Images above: Captioned and uncaptioned north of Waddell]
  The next ScreenShot shows just up the hill and a bit north.from where the coast road comes off the beach. That black mark is the only building shown anywhere on the Ano Nuevo portion of the map.  What this building is remains a mystery. It is not mentioned  in any of the old accounts that I’ve seen.  Yet, sitting right beside the coast road and being the only building for many miles, it should be well known. I’ll keep looking.
   House marker greatly magnified
  The next ScreenShot is of Ano Nuevo Point and Ano Nuevo Island. Note the sand spits that almost connects them. I’ve read about this so many times it is kind of cool to finally see a repreentation of it. The intro photo of the General Plan shows what it looks like now, a huge change. But, the island itself has hardly changed at all. 
[Images above: Sand Spit / Modern shot]
   Lastly, I’ve attached a view of Santa Cruz harbor and environs, the other half of the map. In the magnified views it is possible to see a thriving community was already established, unlike in the empty Ano Nuevo area. Enjoy. John
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