Located about 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island was originally home to the Tongva people starting around 4800 BC.
The Tongva that lived here called the island ‘Pimu’ and referred to themselves as ‘Pimungans’ or ‘Pimuvit.’ At various points through the 1500’s and 1600’s, several Spanish explorers arrived on the island, claiming and renaming it several times, eventually naming it Santa Catalina Island. They unfortunately brought with them new ideas and disease, which resulted in the last of the Pimungans leaving their native Pimu in the 1830’s.
Catalina Island went through several phases of ownership and purpose, including ranching and tourism. In 1919, it was purchased by the Wrigley family (of the chewing gum and Chicago Cubs) and developed as a tourist destination. In 1975, Philip Wrigley donated 88% of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy, a nonprofit organization. The Wrigleys retained ownership of the for-profit parts of the island under the Catalina Island Company.
Today, most people who travel to Catalina Island will visit the town of Avalon. Some will travel to the interior of the island on tour buses to view wild foxes and bison, but none of them will have the benefit of visiting our facilities unless they attend one of our programs.