From the Vault: The Carmel River Mouth in the 1940’s

We found some old 4X5 negatives in an envelope at the bottom of a drawer and ran them through the scanner …

This view of the Carmel River Lagoon with a “Carmel Meadows” free bluff in the background has  “Laidlaw Williams 7 Sep. ’47” sketched in tiny print along its margin. The others are on a different type of film, but we’re guessing they were also exposed by Laidlaw at around the same time. As always, click photos for a larger, higher resolution version.

Patchy clouds, a sparkling bay, a gently sloping back beach, only a house or two on the dunes, and MJ Murphy’s sand plant next to what looks very much like the river flowing out – as it so often does – through a dune-endangering northern cut. The sand plant burned down when a beach fire got away from some teenagers (yes, we’re looking at you, Ray!) in 1948, so this photo was clearly taken before then.

Compare the gentle angle of the dunes in 1947 with their steep eroding face today. This photo is of crews laying boulders to protect Scenic Dr. from wave erosion in January 2010. As sea level and wave heights continue to rise, this problem will only grow worse (regardless of which path the river takes to the sea).

This view, from atop the dunes on Scenic Rd. looking south along the curve of the beach, gives an even better sense of the gentle slope, and the degree to which the beach was being stabilized by vegetation at the time. The Carmelite Monastery and the “Carmel Meadows” free bluffs in the background.

View of Pt. Lobos in afternoon light. Taken from nearly the same location as the last photo.

Looking down on the lagoon from the streets of Carmel. Just look at all that nice flat ground along the edges of the lagoon. Perfect place to build a neighborhood – what could possibly go wrong?

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3 Responses to From the Vault: The Carmel River Mouth in the 1940’s

  1. Janet Brennan says:

    Remarkable photographs depicting the changes that have occurred in the last 60 plus years.

  2. Todd Norgaard says:

    Great find!

    Thanks so much

  3. Frank Emerson says:

    The breaching of the Lagoon originally began to protect the sand plant is what we have heard. So not only was the sand mining taking sand off the beach, which “starves” the gentle slope but also the south breach results in less sand deposited on the beach from the river, It passes away into the Carmel Bay canyon instead of piling up on the north end of the beach. Thats the primary reason there is less sand on the north end of the beach and why the bluff is more at risk. Now with less sand overall on the beach and rising sea levels the property and lagoon are more at risk. The real protection is more sand recruitment to the beach overall. The building of San Clemente dam began to starve the river of sand in the 1920’s so its removal will restore a more natural sediment flow over time.

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