One of the highlights of a trip to Hawaii is the chance to see the large green sea turtles (honu), who are on endangered specieslist, that live in the beautiful, warm ocean there.
Although our stretch of the Pacific is beautiful, the water is a whole lot colder than Hawaii. So imagine my surprise to find out that there is a colony of sea turtles living in the San Gabriel River. The dividing line between Long Beach in Los Angeles County and Seal Beach in Orange County, the San Gabriel is an urban river and not particularly scenic.
Apparently the view is not that important to sea turtles. They have staked their claim to a section of the river about two miles from the ocean where an electrical plant flushes warm water that raises the river water temperature way above normal. No one knows how or why this little colony of turtles found this spot so far north of their usual tropical hangouts in Mexico or Hawaii.
As soon as I read about the turtles I had to get a look for myself. My friend Wenda and I headed up Pacific Coast Highway this morning to find them. And we did. Eventually. It's an easy walk up a bike trail from the Alamitos Bay Marina to the power plant where the turtles hang out. The hard part is actually seeing the turtles. They like to hang out in the turbulent outflow from the power plant that is rough and not particularly clear. But we were (relatively) patient and eventually figured out that the turtles were hanging out in the very middle of the river. They popped their heads up and flipped their flippers, but they never came close to the bank. Which is fine. I was happy just to get a look at them.
If you go to see the turtles, try to go at high tide (it was ebb tide when we were there), that sounds like when they come closer to the river bank. And be patient. It's worth it.