That’s The Point – Stornetta Lands

The wide-open bluffs and distant horizon of the Stornetta Lands at Point Arena provoke a sense of vast possibility.

San Francisco photographer Chris Gill shoots the waves at the Point Arena-Stornetta public lands. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

The wide-open bluffs and distant horizon provoke a sense of vast possibility. The chiseled cliffs and sculpted chunks of rock battered by the surf below connect us to an ancient land mass transformed by forces that continue to reshape these shores.

This is Stornetta Lands at Point Arena, a place of such spectacular beauty and abundant wildlife that it was proclaimed part of the California Coastal National Monument in March. The piece of land, on a remote stretch of the southern Mendocino Coast, is now poised for high-profile discovery after a decade of luring locals seeking refuge and recreation.

Seabirds skim the water and curious seals poke their heads above the waves, beckoning visitors to descend the cliffs onto terraced rock that reaches into the ocean. Inlets, caves and tunnels carved into the stone make for mesmerizing interplay of rock and water.

The former Stornetta ranch land provides the first mainland toehold for the expansive national monument, a collection of more than 20,000 sea stacks, islands and reefs. The Bureau of Land Management operates the 1,665-acre property, which is undeveloped except for cow trails, portable toilets and new signage. Planning is underway for permanent trails, additional parking and bicycle routes.

Abutting Manchester Beach and the Point Arena Lighthouse, the site is easily accessible from Highway 1, with parking along Lighthouse Road on the north and at Point Arena City Hall on the south.

It’s an easy stop, “even if you only have 15 minutes,” said Merita Whatley, gift shop manager at the lighthouse. “You’re going to see this amazing scenery.”