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Iconic Spooner’s Cove arch crumbles: ‘I was lucky to have seen it for decades’

spooners cove arch.jpg
Rachel Showalter
A pile of rock lays where the Spooner's Cove arch once stood.

Tourists and Central Coast locals have been enjoying the natural beauty at Spooner’s Cove in Montaña de Oro State Park for decades.

Now, locals are remembering one of the beach’s iconic bluff arches after strong waves from recent storm systems likely brought it down.

Courtesy: Devra Cooper
A photographer stands underneath the once standing Spooner's Cove arch.

California’s rocky coastline is known for these kinds of arch formations. The rock juts out into the sea and gets battered by waves over time, eventually breaking through the rock and creating an arch.

The Spooner’s Cove Arch was a memorable landmark for visitors and locals alike. Susan Hightower has lived in Los Osos for about 30 years and hikes in Montaña de Oro a few times a week. She said she went down to the beach just a few days ago and noticed the arch was gone.

inside the arch
Courtesy: Susan Hightower
A view from inside the arch, looking back at Spooner's Cove beach

“I just strolled down over [to look] at the water and [did a double take] like, 'Wait a minute, something [is] different,'" Hightower said. "[I said], 'When did this happen?' It was gone. I just said to my husband, 'Where’s the arch?'”

Hightower said she remembers people climbing up along the arch and on the bluff above it. She raised her kids in Los Osos and often took them to Spooner’s Cove.

“I spent many a day down on that beach since they were little. They used to play in the arch a lot," Hightower said. "It’s just been an enjoyable thing that you take for granted, like a lot of things.”

Hightower said the arch is such a permanent part of her memory, it’s hard to believe it’s no longer there.

“It’s been beautiful over the years," Hightower said. "You keep expecting to see it there and I guess I was lucky to have seen it for decades. Sad to see it go.”

full arch
Courtesy: Linda Tanner
A clear photo of the arch taken in 2008.

Eric Hjelstrom is the chief ranger for California State Parks San Luis Obispo Coast District. He said it’s hard to pinpoint an exact time that the arch could have fallen. But he said these rock formations aren’t permanent.

“The cliffs along the ocean here in SLO County are all formed by the wave action of the ocean crashing up against the coastal terrace," Hjelstrom said. "So the same forces that create those natural arches along the coast, end up eventually destroying them.”

Hjelstrom said it’s sad to see an arch crumble, but State Parks can’t do much to prevent these kinds of natural processes.

old arch 2.jpg
Courtesy: Linda Tanner
Sunlight shines through the Spooner's Cove arch.

“There’s really nothing you can do to stop it," Hjelstrom said. "You can sometimes slow it down, but Mother Nature is going to do what she’s going do along the coast there.”

Hjelstrom said the topography in Montaña de Oro can be unsafe, especially along the edge of the bluffs. He said it’s important to stay on designated trails and tread lightly as human interaction with rock formations, like arches, can contribute to the erosion process.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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