Harmony Headlands State Park is a state park in California, United States. It consists of two adjacent parcels located on the Pacific coast between Malakoff and Fort Bragg, with almost 2 miles (3km) of beachfront facing the South Bay. The main parcel covers more than 900 acres (360ha), while the smaller one has about 200 acres (81ha). They are both part of the larger Rancho San Geronimo land grant made to Juan Bautista de Anza in 1542 by Governor Francisco Vzquez de Coronados. At the time it was one of the largest land grants given away in all of New Spain, comprising over 1,200 square leagues or 3,400,000 acres. This area formed the basis for the presidio at Monterey which was later moved up river to its present location.
Harmony Headlands State Park features two separate entrances, each providing access to a different half of the park. One leads to the north portion, including the ranger station, parking areas, and most of the trails; the other leads to the south portion, including the campground, the beach, and some trails. Horses can be rented to ride anywhere in the park. There are also equestrian facilities such as stable and corral near the south entrance.
Mountain bikes may be ridden on certain designated routes. Visitors needing transport to and from the airport must have their vehicles registered with any state. Parking fees are in effect during weekends in high season. Dogs are not permitted on the trails or beaches.
No alcoholic beverages, glass containers, kites, drones, fireworks, hunting, or road bicycles are allowed on the grounds. Violators will be subject to citation. The park accepts Reserve America cards, although Discover passes are not accepted. Daily use fee per vehicle: $8 weekday, $10 weekend. Annual pass valid at any California State Parks site: $30 daily, $60 annual. Active military (with ID) receive discounted daily rate: $12.00, children 13 & under are admitted at no cost. Passes good for three days or a week are available; annual passes good at all seven parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for residents.
In 1769, during the MexicanAmerican War, an American unit under Captain John Parker occupied the site as a coastal fort named after him, but left within six months when threatened by the Russians. Harmony Headlands remained largely undeveloped until 1903 when oil was discovered there. A small camp was set up to house workers who were drilling for oil, and this became the town of Harmony.
However, the well failed to produce any oil, and soon after that the driller’s camp was abandoned. The next year saw another attempt to find oil, again without success. Once the initial excitement and optimism had passed, only a few drillers remained at Harmony. In 1909, the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived, bringing tourists from the East seeking to take advantage of what little tourism there was in the area. The railroad brought with it Camp Murphy, a facility designed primarily for the accommodation of transients, including day-laborers looking for jobs.
By 1912, Camp Murphy was home to 50 to 60 men, most of whom worked either for the railroad or at fishing camps along the shoreline. After serving as a hotel/restaurant for several years, the property changed hands three times before being purchased by Jack where he established the “Headlands Beach House” in 1939. During World War II, the camp served as the headquarters of the 11th Coast Artillery Regiment and housed many other units, including the 761st Tank Battalion, whose memberships included L. C. Riggs, Bob Bennett, and Ken McMullen.
The camp hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics in nearby Santa Barbara. The park was closed to the public from September through May due to dangerous conditions created by large amounts of sea spray impacting the south side of the headland. When the park reopened, there was a guard stationed at the entrance to prevent further erosion. On December 21, 2011, a fire burned parts of the park causing damage to trails and vegetation. According to Cal Fire officials, the cause of the blaze was unknown though arson was suspected because the same section of coastline had been targeted twice before.
Despite these efforts, the park still suffered significant damage and was closed to hikers and cyclists for nearly the entire 2012 season. Harmless nighttime fires continued into October 2013, burning grass and brush throughout the park. With help from a $6 million federal grant, restoration work began in earnest in March 2014 and the park opened to the public on July 25, 2015.
The camp resumed operation as a private recreational facility offering:
- horseback riding
- mountain biking
- general sports activities
Other animals include:
- gray wolf
- black bear
- flying squirrel
- prairie dogs
- wood ducks
- pileated woodpeckers
- bald eagles
- herring gulls
- least terns
- common loons