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Buffalo at Little Harbor

Little Harbor, Catalina Island

Catalina Island's famous buffalo left over from the early 1920's film industry.

Early one morning while using the campground's outhouse, I heard a rumbling outside. When I looked out I was surrounded by fifteen stampeding buffalo who decided to stay and graze awhile. I was able to knock off some shots of them while safely squeezed between the two outhouses. The buffalo (actually bison) are remnants of a herd imported to the island for early western films. In 1924, fourteen bison were brought to Catalina Island for the filming of Zane Grey's novel, The Vanishing American. The animals were left behind when the filming was over. In 1934, thirty more bison were imported from Colorado and some more were added in the 1970s from Montana. The population is kept at around 400-500 animals*.

Up until about 1990 the animals were allowed to graze in the valley between Two Harbors and Catalina Harbor. Many visiting boaters, after eating a good meal and drinking a number of strong local concoctions called "Buffalo Milks", had the exciting task of walking in complete darkness along the road back to Cat Harbor knowing full-well they were surrounded by unseen buffalo on either side of the road.

Unfortunately, some buffalo-hugging person got too close to one of the animals and got herself hurt. The management finally decided to move them towards the center of the island. If you aren't fortunate enough to see any, you can always eat one. They sell buffalo burgers at the resturant at the airport and there's a lady in Avalon that sells some great buffalo jerky and honey-mustard sauce to make it a little more palatable.

From, "California's Channel Islands - 1001 Questions Answered" by Marla Daily. McNally & Loftin, Publishers 1987, Santa Barbara. It's a great guide on history, flora and fauna arranged in a question and answer format.

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Find them before they find you!

ISLAND PASSAGES: Supertankers vs. You

When you're crossing the channel to the Islands you can avoid being surprised by large tankers in mid-channel. Large Vessels must check in with Port Operations on VHF channel 14 once they have reached the traffic separation zones coming in and out of LA Harbor from the North & South. On the hour, skippers must report in their position, speed and ETA. This gives you the opportunity to plot where you (and they) are in the traffic lanes and know when the big guys might be bearing down on you - unless of course, you like surprises and adventure!

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