December’s record-breaking storms provided a much-needed eruption of rain and snow in California, but they also came at a cost. A beloved rock arch along the coast of San Luis Obispo County crumbled in the recent rain, officials said.
The arch at Spooner’s Cove near Montaña de Oro State Park was a landmark for residents and visitors. But after the December flood, locals began reporting that it had collapsed.
“We were there just in late November and took a lot of pictures, and a little over a month later it is gone. There is nothing, ”said Helena Yungbluth, who has visited the arch with her husband since the late 1960s. “Every time we went there, we would admire it. It was an icon for everyone.”
Eric Hjelstrom, chief ranger for the San Luis Obispo Coast district in California State Parks, said the sandstone cliffs that line the area are home to many natural features, including caves and arches formed over time by waves.
They are part of “what gives you the attraction of this part of California,” he said. But time, rain, and wind all take a toll, and “the same force that creates the arc eventually destroys it.”
Many locals shared similar takeaways.
“This event is yet another reminder of the fragility of our coastal areas,” said Los Osos resident Dan Kleck. “As this crumbling sedimentary rock architecture clearly shows, the strength of nature’s water, wind, tides and even the human element of the erosion we are witnessing should not be taken lightly.”
Others took to social media to mourn the loss.
“I have many fond memories when I wade across the water and hang out underneath and watch the waves crash down on the rocks,” Shane Yee wrote on Instagram.
Dan Kreiger, professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly, said there are records of the arch dating back to when the Spooner family built the country in the 1870s. The land first belonged to the northern Chumash and Salinan tribes.
The arch was not noted on a land grant map from 1837, but that does not mean it was not there then – and in fact it could have been there for centuries before, he said.
But Kreiger not only studies the area – he also considers himself among the many locals who loved the arc. He used to take long bike rides there while working on his dissertation in the 1970s, and still provides tours of the area today.
“I knew it was fragile,” he said. “I just fell in love with it, and when I heard it was gone, I felt a sense of loss.”
San Luis Obispo, like much of California, has received significant rain and wind in recent weeks. The total rainfall in December was between 10 and 12 inches, the National Weather Service said.
On Wednesday, the county’s coastal area was below one high surfing advice warn residents of dangerous tornadoes and breaking waves of 10 to 12 feet, with the largest waves crashing on west-facing beaches.
Hjelstrom said the whole thing is part of the California cycle, adding that he has seen many natural and geological features “come and go” during his 20 years of working in state parks.
“The geology pushes the continental plate out towards the ocean, and the ocean pushes back, and the two interact,” he said.
A similar arch in Santa Barbara County was toppled by a storm about a decade ago, he said.