Getting Around Malibu: Corral Canyon

Malibu Bowl community, with Corral Canyon Road in the lower half, leading south toward PCH. March 2003 satellite image Copyright
Malibu Bowl community, with Corral Canyon Road in the lower half, leading south toward PCH. March 2003 satellite image.

Corral Canyon Neighborhood

The rugged topography of Corral Canyon is a north-south oriented two and one-half mile long watershed running from the beach to the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, about 2500 feet above sea level. At the Pacific Ocean, sandy Corral Canyon/Dan Blocker beach offers swimming and surfing. A pocket of coastal salt marsh is located where the creek meets the PCH bridge. Corral is the last undeveloped coastal canyon in Los Angeles County where the creek flows freely to the ocean.

The intersection of PCH with Corral Canyon Road is also the site of the Beaurivage restaurant. Solstice Canyon Park is off Corral Canyon Road just above PCH. As Corral Canyon Road goes up the hill, it passes upslope of the Malibu Beach RV Park in a large s-curve switchback.

Ranchers grazed cattle in the area Corral and Solstice Canyon area for many years. Around 1865, Matthew Keller built a stone cottage, which is still visible from Solstice Canyon Trail. The cottage is believed to be the oldest stone building in Malibu. Some of Malibu's earliest dwellings were established in Corral Canyon including one home built in 1927. Today, Corral Canyon includes the small communities of El Nido and Malibu Bowl, with approximately 600 residents total.

Corral Canyon Road, the only access road for residents, rises from its intersection with PCH overcoming the terrain using many curves and switchbacks. The steep slopes of the canyon are densely covered in typical coastal chaparral vegetation. The road has been washed out by heavy seasonal rains requiring emergency repairs to free the canyon dwellers.

On August 10, 2005, the Coastal Commission, despite a staff recommendation for approval, in an unheard of unanimous vote (10-0) denied a coastal development permit for the Forge Lodge, a 28 unit hotel which was to be built too close to Solstice Creek near the Beaurivage.

On November 24, 2007 a major fire erupted at the top of Corral Canyon requiring days to bring under control. Over 10,000 people were evacuated as 53 single-family homes, 37 vehicles and one mobile home were destroyed and many more damaged. Electricity was out in many parts of Malibu and a primary fiber optic cable was destroyed, knocking out TV and Internet services for thousands.

Corral Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

In 1963, Los Angeles officials proposed building a nuclear generating plant in Corral Canyon. The ambitious plan for the Corral Canyon plant would make it one of the world's largest. Cooling seawater from 2500 feet out in the Pacific would be pumped to the reactor via buried pipes, crossing under the beach and PCH. A network of transmission towers would carry the electricity across the Santa Monica Mountains to the electric grid in the San Fernando Valley.

Plans and financing were all set with rapid approvals expected and completion as early as 1967. It didn't happen. A furor arose in Malibu, merging with other environmental concerns. As a result, the atomic plant was cancelled in 1970 while public parkland and land-development restrictions throughout the Santa Monica Mountains were approved.

At the public hearings, Malibu celebrities complained that the coastal area was seismically active. Angela Lansbury told the Planning Commission that the thought of a nuclear plant up the road from her beachfront home "makes my hair stand on end." Singer Frankie Laine cited an incident involving a leaking truck at an Idaho nuclear plant that forced officials to dig up a street and bury the contaminated pavement.

Although there are no plans to ever again build a nuclear plant in Corral Canyon, there are still 98 acres owned by the Dept. of Water and Power, in deep ravines and steep slopes south of El Nido. An unrelated silo building, sometimes confused with the power plant project, was built nearby in 1961 for work on space satellite instruments.

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