El Capitan State Beach Park


March 3, 2021

El Capitán State Beach (meaning "the captain" in Spanish) is a protected beach in the state park system of California. The mostly easterly of three state parks along the Gaviota Coast, it is located about 20 miles (32 km) west of downtown Santa Barbara. The beach is named after José Francisco Ortega, who retired from the Spanish Army in 1795 with the rank of captain and received the Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio as a land grant. Features

El Capitán has a day-use beach as well as a campground with 131 sites (6 of which are RV only) and 5 group sites. There are tide pools on the beach and sycamore and oak trees in the campground area. Monarch butterflies congregate at El Capitán in autumn to breed.


The Refugio oil spill occurred just north of nearby Refugio State Beach in 2015 when a pipeline carrying crude oil ruptured. The spill went into a culvert that ran under US 101 and into the ocean. The spill spread over seven miles of coastline, including El Capitán and Refugio state beaches. Both parks were closed for much of the summer during the clean-up, including during the typically busy Memorial Day weekend. The pipeline which caused the disaster is no longer in service.

In 2016, the park's water system was destroyed when the Sherpa Fire swept through a canyon near the main campgrounds. The park had already closed due to the smoke and fire danger.

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