Native Californian Trails
Malaga Canyon was excavated by archaeologists from the Southwest Museum in 1936, and again in 1961. It is regarded as one of the few important archaeological sites in California containing evidence within its layers of prehistoric human evolution. Under a 1955-period condominium complex on the bluff north of the canyon is an archaeological site that is four complexes (stratified levels of human habitation) deep, dating back as far as 500 B.C.
The artifacts at the deepest level included shells, whose contents do not appear to have been cooked, and microliths of chert used for drilling and cutting. Second-level artifacts included metates and manos, revealing a diet largely dependent on acorns, seeds, and roots. There were still no hunting tools, and few shells and mammal bones. The third level, however, contained carved abalone fishhooks, bone harpoon barbs, and the skeletal remains of sea lion, sea otter, porpoise, fish, coyote, deer, and rabbit. The top layer included carefully fashioned chert and chalcedony arrow points, steatite arrowshaft straighteners, and a basket-hopper mortar (a bottomless basket made to top the stone mortar).
Archaeologists learned enough to realize there was much more valuable information to be excavated at this site. But before they could complete their investigation, a condominium was built on the bluff. In 1961 the owner of the adjoining property found several artifacts while excavating for a tennis court. The site became known as Malaga Cove II, and a three-month study by the Southwest Museum followed. Excavation at Malaga Cove II revealed 500 artifacts.
Exit Hwy. 1 at Palos Verdes Blvd. in Torrance. Go 2 miles south to Paseo de la Playa. Turn right and head 1 block west to the bluff-top parking area at Torrance County Beach (fee required seasonally).
On the Trail
This walk takes you along the beach and up through Malaga Canyon near the archaeological sites. From the parking lot, a steep ramp leads down to Torrance Beach. Follow the sandy beach left (south), passing under bluffs that get higher as you approach the rocky Palos Verdes Peninsula headland. Continue 0.75 mile south until the peninsula juts sharply west, and the sand gives way to rocks. This marks the start of the most prolific tidepools in the area, which were harvested for thousands of years by the villagers living atop the bluff. Near where the rocks begin, a path climbs among them to traverse the base of the coastal bluff. By one mile, the trail turns east to ascend Malaga Canyon. A paved quarter-mile road leads up along the south side of the canyon to the bluff overlooking Malaga Cove Sites I and II. Behind a bluff-top meadow, Malaga Cove I is located near the large, white multilevel condominium visible through the trees to the north. Retrace your steps to the parking lot.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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