The mission of California State Parks is
to provide for the health, inspiration and
education of the people of California by helping
to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological
diversity, protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
On clear days, visitors
to Refugio State Beach
enjoy matchless views of
four offshore islands —
San Miguel, Santa
Rosa, Santa Cruz, and
California State Parks supports equal access.
Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(805) 968-1033. If you need this publication in an
alternate format, contact email@example.com.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369.
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Discover the many states of California.™
Refugio State Beach
10 Refugio Beach Road
Goleta, CA 93117
© 2015 California State Parks
Anacapa — as they stroll
the beach’s craggy
t Refugio State Beach, 22 miles west
of Santa Barbara, fan and date palms
decorate a crescent-shaped curve of sand.
This is a quiet place to build sand castles,
surf, dive, stroll the trails, watch wildlife,
pitch a tent, and cast a fishing pole.
From the hills above the beach, Refugio
Creek makes its way to the ocean. The Santa
Ynez Mountains, part of Los Padres National
Forest, dominate the scenery.
The Native People
The native Chumash people originally lived
in this area. The Chumash territory generally
extended from today’s San Luis Obispo
south to Malibu. Three villages, likely
occupied at different times, surrounded
Refugio Bay. The most recent of these,
according to mission records, was named
Kasil, translated as “pretty place.”
Refugio Bay was a port of trade between
Chumash people on Santa Cruz Island
and the inland village of Soxtonokmu in
the Santa Ynez Valley. The lagoon would
have provided a wealth of resources from
the sea, obtained via the tomol (redwood
plank canoe). The surrounding marshes
provided willows and tules for construction
of the traditional Chumash house or ap.
Despite the widespread decimation of the
native population from disease, violence,
and starvation after Spanish arrival, many
Chumash people have maintained
important cultural traditions for current
and future generations.
of Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio to
non-family members between 1858 and
1889. The remaining grassy portion was used
mostly for cattle ranching.
Scottish émigrés Nelson and J. Monroe
Rutherford bought 500 beachside acres in
the early 20th century, opening a private
resort called Refugio Cove and Beach. Their
beach resort had rental cabins, campsites,
an arbor, a children’s pool, and a small camp
store. The State of California bought Refugio
from Rutherford descendants in 1950. In
1963, it was classified a state beach.
Spanish Explorers and French Pirates
In the 1790s, José Francisco Ortega was
awarded the first land grant on the Santa
Barbara coast, the 26,529-acre Nuestra
Señora del Refugio. He raised cattle there.
Four geologic types make up the land at
The Spanish monarchy that governed Alta
Refugio State Beach: Rincon formation
California at that time forbade any trade with
(brown-gray clay marine shale); Monterey
non-Spanish ships or countries, considering
formation (an oil‑producing
this smuggling. When Ortega’s son, José
formation of shales
María, inherited the rancho, he began
trading cowhides, leather, and tallow with
foreign ships rather than waiting months for
Spanish goods that did not always arrive.
In 1818, notorious French pirate Hippolyte
Bouchard learned of Ortega’s wealth and
has been found
set out to raid Refugio. However, the
residents —warned about Bouchard’s
intentions —fled inland to hide their
and rock— the
valuables. In the end, Bouchard burned
Ortega’s adobe home and cattle station and
of the four types).
destroyed his livestock, but he left Refugio
A neat row of non-native
Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio
palms lines the shore.
Like many large Alta California land
grantees, the Ortegas sold off pieces
Photo courtesy of Jean Bjerke
Situated between the south branch of the
Santa Ynez and the Arroyo Parida ground
faults, Refugio is also affected by several
offshore geologic faults.
The mostly landscaped park had little native
vegetation after Ortega’s cattle grazed here.
Between the late 1920s and 1950, thenowners the Rutherford brothers planted
the neat row of stately palm trees along
the shore. Now part of the park’s historical
landscaping, the palms were intended to
attract tourists to what the
Rutherfords called their
Bird species found
in the park include
Birds found among
of coastal sage scrub include the bushtit,
California towhee, and wrentit.
Such water birds as willets, marbled
godwits, whimbrels, killdeer, and occasionally,
long-billed curlews feed on the shoreline.
The lagoon is home to mallards, coots, blackcrowned night herons, and various gulls
Coast sunflowers lure ceanothus silk
moths. Abundant rodents include the deer
mouse and California pocket mouse. Other
mammals include California voles and
What was once part of a grand rancho is
now simply Refugio State Beach. The beach
is easy to access from parking lots. With
its smooth, shallow depths, this area is a
preferred location for students seeking their
open-water scuba diving certification.
Camping — A 66-site family campground and
three group sites are close to the beach.
There are no RV hookups. Observe quiet
hours. Reserve campsites well in advance at
www.parks.ca.gov or call (800) 444-7275.
Trails — A portion of the 2.5-mile Aniso Trail
(part of the California Coastal Trail) between
Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches is
closed for storm repairs. Call (805) 968-1033
Tuesday through Friday for trail updates.
The beach — This narrow beach is near many
campsites, and it invites visitors to swim,
fish, kayak, scuba dive, and surf the waves.
Accessible features include fairly level
unpaved campsites, restrooms, and a
blufftop bike trail/walkway with views of
the Channel Islands. To reserve a beach
wheelchair, call (805) 968-3834 M-F.
Accessibility is continually improving. For
updates, visit http://access.parks.ca.gov.
• CONSULT A LIFEGUARD OR A TIDE
CHART BEFORE HIKING ALONG THE
BEACH. The beach that exists at low tide
may disappear when the tide comes in,
trapping you against the cliffs.
• Keep dogs on leashes no longer than six
feet, and in a tent or your vehicle at night.
• Park quiet hours (10 p.m. – 6 a.m.) are
strictly enforced. Generators may not be
used between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. Noise
should not be audible beyond campsites
at any time.
• A parent or guardian must accompany
campers under 18. Unaccompanied youth
must present written consent from a
parent or guardian stating the dates of the
authorized stay at Refugio State Beach.
C o as ta l
C an y o n
u g io
Tr a i l
U N D E RWAT E R A R E A
Trail: Hike & Bike
NEARBY STATE PARKS
• El Capitan State Beach
2 El Capitan State Beach Rd
Goleta 93117 (805) 585-1850 M-F
• Chumash Painted Cave SHP
Highway 154 on Painted Cave Road
Santa Barbara 93105 (805) 585-1850 M-F
Re f u
C H A N N E L I S L A N D S N AT I O N A L P R E S E R V E
© 2015 California State Parks
Be a c
to San Luis