The land that is now Palisades Park was donated to Santa Monica in 1892 because it was considered too unstable to support houses. It lies on a coastal bluff that suffers from erosion and landslides. The urban planners who developed the land selected specific flora to plant in the park that would grow strong enough roots to slow down the erosion. Without these plants, the bluffs would be well on its way to crumbling into the Pacific Ocean. They are utilitarian as well as aesthetically pleasing.
Palisades Park’s bluff is geologically fascinating. You can see layers in the sediment, each of which represents a different era in the land’s history. Most of the dirt is comprised of marine fossils, shells, rocks, sand, and gravel. Sandstone is the most common type of rock found here, and bits of mica, quartz, and feldspar can be seen if you look closely.
Even with the precautions taken by city planners, the bluff still experiences periodic landslides. In the 1940s the Pacific Coast Highway had to be shut down due to a large amount of sediment that had slid onto the road. Each year the park loses some of its land to erosion. It sits between three fault lines, so there is always the possibility of damage if an earthquake strikes.
Visitors tend to come for the extraordinary view of the Santa Monica Bay. On a clear day you can see all the way to Malibu. The park itself is full of beautifully manicured grass, smooth paths, and towering palm trees. Jogging, biking, and people watching are popular activities. Many people stop by the Camera Obscura Art Lab, a haven for interactive programs. Other interesting landmarks include the rose garden, totem pole, picnic area, and Santa Monica concrete sculpture. If you want to learn more about the park, be sure to check out the visitor center.