The Piedras Blancas lighthouse, built in 1874, has seen better days, being in a general state of disrepair with a lousy coat of paint. But it is still the centerpiece of this dramatic point. The lighthouse, owned by the Coast Guard, is off limits to the public but the original fresnel lens has been removed and is on display in Cambria.
The Piedras Blancas Story

A Brief History of the Colony::

A funny thing happened on November 25th 1990 near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse and things haven’t been the same there since. A marine biologist awoke, ready to continue his work with sea otters, only to find 19 young elephant seals hauled out on the tiny beach where the biologists used to launch their skiffs. These young rogues, like the misfits on the Mayflower, had abandoned their former colony and landed here to set about creating a new one.

Whether that was their intention or not, they wasted little time in going about their business – spreading the word throughout the elephant seal aquaworld that here was a new frontier ripe for the taking. As soon as 1992 the first pup was born to the new colony and the race was on. This quickly became the fastest growing elephant seal colony ever recorded. As the population expanded the seals spread onto nearby beaches to the south and now, during the breeding season they reach clear to San Simeon Point, about a four-mile stretch. The total number of seals who call Piedras Blancas home is estimated somewhere between 7 and 10 thousand and just this past winter (1999) there were 1900 pups born.

Impressive Piedras Blancas pup production.
It took Ano Nuevo 18 years to reach the 1000 pups/year mark.
Tough-guy bulls battling it out over females during breeding season.

A few interesting things to note about a young colony like this:

While the general rule is that an elephant seal will tend to return to molt and breed on the beaches where he/she was born, obviously this is not always the case. It's thought that overcrowding at other rookeries is the primary reason seals head off to form new colonies. And it's usually the younger seals that start these trends, as it was with Piedras Blancas.

But if you do the math, the first pup born at Piedras Blancas in 1992 is still only 7 or 8 years old. Big bulls can't really establish themselves as alpha bulls until about 9 or 10 years old or so. This means that pretty much every large bull you see on the beach currently is an immigrant from other colonies. This shows large bulls also immigrate and are, of course, necessary to establish a breeding population. Even so, there is not the concentration of really large bulls at the Piedras Blancas colony that you might see at a more mature site like Ano Nuevo. This seems to result in not quite as many violent fights, and, once the beach becomes crowded with females, there are relatively small bulls that are able to defend their own harems. In short, there is less competition...for now anyway. Females are quite a bit quicker to join the breeding ranks and the first female that was born at Piedras Blancas produced a pup there in 1996.

Colored flipper tags show that seals are immigrating to Piedras Blancas from all the established rookeries throughout California. There seems to be very little information shared across the border about the elephant seal colonies off Baja California, at Guadalupe, Cedros, and San Benito Islands. So it's not known if any seals from those areas frequent Piedras Blancas. (Maybe there's too much of a language barrier.)

See a seal with a tag on its flipper? Find out where it's from:

Tag Color: Rookery:
White Piedras Blancas (White Rocks remember)
Yellow San Miguel Island (off Santa Barbara)
Red San Nicholas Island (off Los Angeles)
Green Ano Nuevo (20 miles N. of Santa Cruz)
Pink Farallon Islands (off San Francisco)
Purple Gorda (small colony near Big Sur)
Orange Rehabilitated Animal

flipper tag
Where's this guy (gal actually) from?