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The Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve is home to up to , monarch butterflies from October through early February.


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The first inhabitants in the Santa Cruz area were small groups of Native Americans. The Ohlone were a semi-nomadic tribe that hunted game and marine mammals and supplemented their diets with shellfish , fish , edible roots and shoots, acorns , nuts, and seeds.

The Ohlone raised medicinal plants and herbs.

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They made tools from locally found stones and shells. Their crafts included shellfish jewelry and baskets. The displacement of the natives began with the Spanish colonization of the Americas when missionaries and soldiers brought the Ohlone into the missions. The population of Native Americans was greatly reduced by European diseases to which they had no resistance.

The citizens of Mexico used what is now Natural Bridges State Beach as pasture land for their cattle. The area in and around the park later supported a dairy farm, a brussels sprouts farm, hotel, housing for mill workers, a South Seas movie set and a failed housing development.

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Natural Bridges State Beach

The land surrounding the park was largely wild and undeveloped until the s. The park is now surrounded by beach development and commercial properties.


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Natural Bridges State Beach is named for the naturally occurring mudstone bridges that were carved by the Pacific Ocean into cliffs that jutted out into the sea. The arches formed over a million years ago when a combination of silt, clay and diatoms were solidified into a mixture of stone that formed the three original arches of the beach.

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Of the three original arches only the middle one remains. The outermost arch fell during the early 20th century and the inner arch collapsed during a storm in Visitors were formerly permitted to climb up, walk and even drive on the bridges. Now the arch is closed to public access. Natural Bridges State Beach is home to a eucalyptus grove that provided habitat for monarch butterflies.

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At Natural Bridges State Beach they find shelter from the wind and sources of water and food. The butterflies cluster onto the trees, "intertwining their legs among the branches to resemble a clump of leaves. The bridge tends to a rosy color because it is constituted by limestones and plates of Rosso Ammonitico Veronese.

Under the arch of the bridge a brook flows, and forward, toward valley, it forms a fall. In these caves archaeologists found some important prehistoric evidences.

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These places are also destinations for speleologists. The scientists think that primitive communities used to inhabit these places for centuries. A natural bridge is a geo-morphological structure in which the rock assumes the aspect of an arch.

Mystery at Natural Bridge

Different factors could have origined such a stone conformation climatic elements or pressure of the water and could have determined the erosion of the rock that finally took the characteristic shape of a bridge. In Italy, such as all around the world, we can find a lot of natural archs, especially in certain areas near to a stream or to the sea.

We can see more of these natural artworks in the South of Italy and in the islands, for example the natural arch of Tavolara, or that of Capri island. Stream systems wore down the mountain ranges, dropping off rounded remnants of the formerly towering rocks along the way, intermixed with coarse grains of sand, only to be baked as another flow of lava coated the sediments. Earthquakes would periodically rock the region as the adjacent oceanic plate was shoved underneath the continent, feeding the volcanic frenzy.

This went on for roughly 80 million years, until the rock record pulls us up short at what geologists call The Great Unconformity, 1. Fast forward to roughly million years ago, when the rock record picks back up, telling us that the restless seas spent the next 20 million years encroaching on, and covering, the former beachfront property.


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  • The seas filled in the lowlands and eroded away the cliffs, leaving naught but sand, cobbles, the occasional ripple mark, and another unconformity spanning about million years. Little is known about this timeframe; however, the overlying rock units and those in other parts of the Southwest indicate that this was probably a time of great inactivity—very little shaking and baking going on.

    Eventually, though, the ocean reclaimed its dominance, returning with a vengeance again and again, depositing layers of limestone and shale, and preserving examples of sea creatures such as coral and scallops.

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    About million years ago, the seas settled down to some steady work, allowing crystals of lime to steadily accumulate and sea life to flourish. Sea snails and clams arrived on the scene, trawling the shallow marine floor for sustenance, while corals built up a reef offshore. Just to the north of this area, the winds were busy carving out a landscape of sand dunes that were dissected by the occasional river, supplying the ocean with fresh water and sediment. But then, something happened rather abruptly here.

    By about million years ago, all record of geologic activity vanished yet again. What happened in Payson? Why are rock units to the north and west present to attest to what happened for the next million years, but not here? Were they eroded away? Or were they even deposited in the first place? A giant supercontinent, known as Pangaea, formed and broke up, and dinosaurs roamed the planet until extinction, but no record of any of those monumental events was left behind here for us to interpret.

    We can infer from other parts of the western US that volcanic activity increased, as did the number of earthquakes, when the great collision known as the Laramide Orogeny occurred 70 million years ago. This series of events kickstarted the formation of the Rocky Mountains, a time of repeated grinding, crunching, and warping as two tectonic plates collided, causing rocks to break and slide over and under each other.