Santa Barbara- S County

El Capitan Canyon reopens following heavy winter storm damage

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - El Capitan Canyon, a nature lodging resort, is welcoming guests back again, four months after a massive storm caused extensive damage to the property.

The resort, located along the Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County, officially reopened for Memorial Day weekend, and lodgings are mostly sold out.

“We are thrilled to be back open. It's been an interesting four months, but we are thrilled to welcome our friends and guests back to share the beauty of the canyon," said managing partner Terri Bowman.

On January 20, a powerful storm sent mud, flowing water and debris down the canyon, flooding a creek that runs through the property. Nearly two dozen cars and several cabins were swept away coming to a rest at an embankment below Calle Real. The Canyon Market was also badly damaged.

“We had mountains of wood, debris, mud and huge boulders the size of cars were barreling down the canyon," Bowman said. "Really and so thankfully, the most important thing was no one was injured and everybody was safe and sound."

This was the second nearly catastrophic event to touch El Capitan Canyon.

In June 2016, The Sherpa Fire burned in the Santa Ynez mountains along the Gaviota Coast. The fast-moving wildfire burned around El Capitan Canyon but did not damage the property or cause the resort to shut down for a long period of time.

"The fire came within our boundaries like someone drew a pencil line around the proximity," Bowman said. "We were able to get back open quickly, and did not lose structures.”

After the fire, the hillsides were left denuded, so the property owners had crews perform extensive mitigation in the canyon in preparation for the probability of a wet winter.

“But on January 20, while our hillsides handled the storm perfectly well, the backcountry behind us was still so scared from those earlier fires that we ended up bearing the brunt of all that debris and mud flow from the canyon,” Bowman said.

The lower canyon was under 30 feet of water.  But, once the waters subsided, dozens of employees banded together and got to work putting their beloved resort property back together.

“Having been through so many disastrous situations between the fire and the big storm event that came through, we are incredible family and we were before that," Bowman said. "But, this has galvanized us.”

Over the last four months, crews cleared debris and turned it into mulch, fixed cabins, and The Market, restoring the canyon to what it was before.

El Capitan Canyon is booking up quickly as word spreads of the reopening. But, there are some reservations still available. For more information about reservations and special events, click here.


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