Catalina Island Skyline Drive
Catalina Island, California, USA
- Retro style: Made by a company called Flxible, these funky and rare vintage buses are perfect for island sightseeing, with expansive windows that let you see everything.
- Skyline drive: From Avalon you'll hug the high peaks of the interior on a dizzying mountain ridge road, stopping to see native wildlife like bison, foxes, and eagles.
- Airport in the Sky: At 1,600 feet, you can take in the scenery all the way to the mainland. Visit the nature center and see exhibits on island ecology, a Catalina timeline, and a 40-foot map of the island.
About This Catalina Island Tour
They weren't born here, but the bison roaming Catalina have thrived in the nine decades since they mysteriously arrived. According to the Catalina Island Conservancy, 16 of them were shipped over in 1924 to appear in the Zane Grey silent movie The Vanishing American. But a columnist for the Catalina Islander points out that there are no bison in the film, and none of the backgrounds look anything like Catalina.
Well, maybe the Catalina scenes wound up on the cutting room floor, and none of the bison extras had their union card. All we know for certain is that the original 16 were an affectionate lot, breeding to a peak population of about 600 by the '70s. Today the conservancy maintains the herd at 150 to 200 – small enough to survive on Catalina's limited grasslands, but numerous enough to be easily spotted. And let's face it: the closest most people get to seeing bison is the stampede scene in Dances with Wolves. So it is pretty special when you see them in real life.
There's a good chance you'll also see the Catalina Island Fox. Six of California's eight Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas, Santa Rosa, San Clemente, and Catalina) have populations, but they've all evolved into distinct sub-species, with differences such as body size or the length of the tail. And the foxes on some of the other islands arrived much earlier than Catalina's – 10,000 to 16,000 years ago. But even though Catalina's rocky interior doesn't support an abundant food chain, its foxes have actually evolved to be larger than their relatives.
A virus outbreak in 1999 reduced their number from about 1,300 to 100; the federal government put them on the endangered species list in 2004. Fortunately, the Conservancy's immunization and captive breeding programs have restored the Catalina fox population to a stable 1,500. So if you see one, wish it well. And if you want to do more than that, leave a donation for the conservancy at its airport nature center.
No ... I said I need an extra large
To maintain a stable bison population of no more than 200, the Catalina Island Conservancy partnered with Native American tribes to relocate about 100 of the burly beasts "home" to the Great Plains. Today they're using non-hormonal birth control injections to maintain numbers. Getting a buffalo to hold still while you give it a shot is tricky, but it's easier than some other options.
The Skyline Drive Tram will depart from the Tour Plaza in the center of town: 10 Island Plaza, Avalon, CA.
In need of retail therapy after your tour? Your guide can advise you where to go in search of that "must have" souvenir to take home. Be sure to have a back pack for all your great buys.
To fully participate may require leisurely walking over primarily even surfaces. There may be a limited number of steps and some standing for extended periods of time. Travelers with limited mobility can enjoy all aspects of this tour.
Bus Tour, Family Friendly, Scenic, Wilderness/Wildlife
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated mild. To participate fully, you may be required to walk over primarily even surfaces at a leisurely pace. You may encounter a limited number of steps, cobblestones, or uneven surfaces, and you may have to stand for extended periods of time.
Suitable for travelers 4 years of age and older.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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