A Brief History of Muwu Beach

Melvin Kim
13:30, Tuesday, 9-24-19

I’ve just parked in the dirt lot at Point Mugu beach. Dust kicked up from the tires blows past my car and a vision of the Pacific Ocean materializes in front of my eyes. The rumble of the engine goes silent and I roll down the windows. I feel the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face. Then, a loud BANG! BANG! BANG! I hear gunshots.

The Naval Base Ventura County borders Mugu Beach to the north.

Apparently, there is a shooting range in the naval base right next door. The loud shots are muffled by the crashing waves and the whooshes of the cars cruising on the world famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). I look to my left and see Mugu Rock and the remains of a derelict road. I continue to look around, start to wonder, “What was here before the naval base? What happened with ruined road? What was here before all of this?”

Mugu Rock; an old road is shown skirting the edge.

Before we get to Mugu rock and the road, let’s find out what existed here in the past!

Before the arrival of foreign settlers, the Chumash had inhabited these lands and waters for many years. The Chumash are a native american people group who have lived in central and southern California for the past 13,000 years. Point Mugu derives its name from the Chumash word for beach, “Muwu.” This was the site of Muwu village, a ceremonial center and the capital of Lulapin, a historic chiefdom which ranged from northern Los Angeles to past Santa Barbara. Since the European contact in 1542, the Chumash population had dwindled due to foreign diseases, displacement, and the mission system. As a result, many Chumash were removed or left their ancestral homes to live in the missions.

Before and after; the road that wraps around Mugu rock.

Subsequently, as time progressed, so did the advancement of development along the coast. Mugu rock, a promontory (land that extended out into the ocean) was a large challenge for those who wanted to travel along the coast. In the early 1920s, California’s highway engineers had blasted the side of this rock to create thin road. The road was created, but became a major hazard, due to many accidents and drivers veering off the cliff. Over the course of 3 years in 1940, the rock was blown up and a new 60 foot-wide road was established.

Before and after; the road that cuts through Mugu rock

Mugu beach has experienced many changes in the inhabitants, uses, and physical composition over the year. It’s my hope that it remains a publicly accessible beach for all to enjoy!

Have you ever been to this beach and what do you think might happen to it in the future? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “A Brief History of Muwu Beach

  1. ashlee.phelps608 says:

    Melvin, I really enjoyed reading your post, it felt as if I was reading a story rather than a blog. I like how you focused on the historical aspects of the beach because, until now, I did not know that the rock was connected to the mountain and was blown up or that was where the Chumash settled. Are they descendants of the Chumash who lived on the islands? Or was this in the same time period?

    • melvin.kim099 says:

      Hey Ashlee! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Pretty crazy right? To my knowledge, I do not know know if they were descendants or relatives of the Chumash who lived on the islands. However, that’s a great question as to if the Chumash were related to one another or the specific nature of their society.

  2. sara.patterson748 says:

    Wow Melvin, this is a really well done blog! It’s thoughtful, informative, entertaining, and well-written. When first beginning to read, I was struck by your descriptive contrast between the natural and the man-made scenery. The peaceful beach and sounds of human weapons. Then you lead us through your resulting thought process and research. You are right, this beach has experienced so many changes, particularly to suite peoples’ needs at the time. It makes me think about humans’ tendency to try to design nature around what’s convenient for us in the short-term. You asked what we think might happen to this beach in the future, and my guess is that because it’s a state beach, it will be protected as much as possible from threats (natural or manmade). Sounds good to me! What do YOU think might happen to it in the future?

    • melvin.kim099 says:

      Hey Sara! Thanks so much for the kind words. That’s a great point you bring up about the tendency of humans to alter their environment to suit their needs. And thank you for asking for my opinion! I hope that Mugu beach will continue to be a place for people to enjoy and a site of good ecological health.

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