The Profits and Pleasures of the Harbor

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbors exemplify the huge L.A. economy. The harbors abut each other inside San Pedro Bay and are among the world’s biggest ports. The Port of Los Angeles alone throbs with commerce at 29 cargo terminals. In /998 it handled 3.2 million containers with a cargo value of $73.8 billion. Add about a million cruise passengers to the mix each year and it’s no surprise it creates 259,000 jobs. This success came with a price. The natural San Pedro Bay disappeared completely, obscured by 35 miles of artificial shoreline, 3800 acres of water and 3700 acres of landfill. Anticipating a booming economy, the Port of Los Angeles’ plans to double capacity with new container berths and dredging projects to deepen the channels for the world’s largest ships. Mitigation for disturbing the harbor’s last natural resources involves funding for Orange County’s Bolsa Chica wetlands (see the feature Coastal Wetlands), restoration of San Diego’s Batiquitos Lagoon, and creating shallow water habitat in the harbor for fish-eating birds and as a nursery for fish. Aside from shipping, the area hosts several historic and educational features. Two big port-oriented developments attract visitors, Shoreline Village in Long Beach and San Pedro’s Ports O’ Call Village. Both front the CCT as do downtown San Pedro and Long Beach. Other features include Angels Gate Park and its Korean Friendship Bell, Fort McArthur Military Museum, Point Fermin Park and lighthouse, and the mammoth Long Beach Convention Center.

If you’re interested in the maritime realm, consider visiting the following places: 

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro hosts exhibits about beaches, mudflats, rocky shoreline, and warm water species of the open ocean. The aquarium also does education and research, inviting public participation in the conservation of southern California marine life . It offers tours, classes and programs Admission is free, parking $6.50 per car, a great deal for families or a car load of friends, even better for walkers, cyclists and those using public transportation. For information call (310)548-7562, or check out the website at

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary rests inside its own breakwater in Long Beach Harbor. After long service, it’s now a floating hotel and conference center run by the City of Long Beach. The Queen Mary, one of the largest ships ever built, stretches 1,0 1 9.5 feet long, /18 feet wide, and weighs 81,237 tons. The 10 million rivets holding it together and 2000 portholes testify to its vastness. Its twelve decks held 2000 passengers and 1100 staff. The 1936 maiden voyage began 1001 Atlantic trips. As a troop carrier in World War I1, it hauled over 750,000 troops, logging 569,429 miles. The final October 1967 cruise ended at Long Beach and the City took ownership. 

The Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum in San Pedro is the largest of its kind in California with 75,000 square feet. Originally built as the base for an auto ferry shuttling workers across the harbor to Terminal Island shipping yards, the handsome “Streamline Moderne” building fell into disrepair after the bridge was built, and was saved only by citizens dedicated to historical preservation. Today it houses 700 ship models, ship equipment, sea-related Native American artifacts, ship figureheads, maritime arts, crafts, an 18-foot model of the Titanic, exhibits on the whaling industry, the Navy and Merchant Marine. The museum offers classes like scrimshaw and small boat handling. The affiliated L..A. Maritime Institute offers sailing programs for youth aboard the historic sailboats Swift of Ipswich and Bill of Rights. Admission to the museum at the foot of 6th Street in downtown San Pedro, is just $1.

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume Two: Monterey to Mexico by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
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