The Strangest Natural Phenomena In California


Bioluminescent Waves

Every few years, for a couple of months, the waves glow neon blue in the waters of Southern California. The glowing is caused by a red tide, or algal bloom, of bioluminescent phytoplankton that emit light in response to being disturbed such as waves crashing, a swimmer swimming, or a surfer ripping through the waves. The glowing of these microorganisms only last for a quick moment, but the sight is like a scene from the movie “Avatar”.


grunion run

Grunion Run

Every year, a small silvery fish known as the California grunion, emerge from the water and make their way up the beaches of Southern California to spawn. Found only off the coasts of California and Baja California, Mexico, grunion leave the water to lay their eggs in the sand from March through September. Shortly after high tide, on the nights of the full and new moons, sections of beaches in Southern California are filled with thousands of silvery grunion having sex on the beach.



Migration of Monarch Butterflies

Every October, thousands of migrating monarch butterflies fly to the coasts of California to spend their winters in the warmer climate. They cluster together on the same trees every year, but each year it’s a different generation that make the journey. Every fourth generation migrates to the winter homes of their great-grandparents. There are many groves in California where you can see thousands of  migrating butterflies such as the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove in San Luis Obispo County or the Elwood Main Monarch Grove in Santa Barbara.


sailing stones race track playa

Sailing Rocks

The sailing stones of Death Valley, California were once a source of mystery, due to the trails etched into the dirt by the rocks, leading to theories involving aliens, hoaxters, and even the possibility of the stones being alive. But thanks to a study released in August 2014, the mystery of the sailing stones has been solved. The trails on Racetrack Playa are caused by stones plowing through mud when melting ice and wind generates enough force to cause movement.


glass beach fort bragg california

Glass Beach

In Fort Bragg, California, there is a beach covered in glass. Years of garbage dumped into the coastline was transformed over several decades into small round pieces of glass by the constant action of the waves, creating Glass Beach. It has since become a popular tourist spot, and where it was once illegal to dump glass, now it is illegal to remove glass from the beach.