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Pier Review: Scripps Pier

By contrast, I would consider myself a failure as a pier reviewer were I to fail to sing the praises of piers which stand as ideals, the apex of all going-out-over-the-waterness. In fact, every so often in my career as a pier reviewer, I encounter a pier that obliterates any whiff of cynicism. Today's pier, Scripps Pier, is just such a one.

Scripps Pier is located in La Jolla and exists as a research pier for scientists at the venerated Scripps Institute of Oceanography (sorry, public: not allowed). In addition, Scripps Pier resides within the boundaries of a marine protected area or "MPA", designated to protect and preserve the coastal wildlife of La Jolla.

It's a newish pier, built in the 1980s, but its dayglo colors and modern art have already faded, leaving behind a minimalist take on the pier as an expression of a purer idea: pier as engagement with the natural world.

Scripps Pier has none of the decrepitude of Crystal Pier and it has no bifurcated, identity crisis, such as the two-headed pier of OB (one head is for drugs, the other is for fishing). What Scripps Pier has instead it has in spades: a short jaunt into the ocean, soul-swelling scenery, a crane for launching boats, and wildlife everywhere you look.

Pier Review Highlights

  • Smells: Heaven, Angels, Pier Simulacra.
  • Bird crap/fish guts on railings: Nary a one.
  • Condition: Very new. New Crane.
  • View: Amazing, 10 out of 10, would visit again.
  • Features: Very long: Goes far out past the surf zone.
  • Good for Checking out the Surf: No (see "surfer exclusion cage").
  • Wildlife: All over: under the pier, over the pier, inside the pier.
  • Traction/Footing: Not too good.

The Scripps Pier visitor will find seals, dolphins, stingrays, sharks, sometimes whales, all of them waving, singing, or clapping their flukes. As a result of the lush conditions of the marine protected zone, food is more amply available and all of these animals come here to feed and have incredible joyous singalongs. Moreover, the pier not only has wildlife within sight, it also has wildlife inside its guts:

One of the functions of the pier is to supply seawater to the researchers at SIO and to the Birch Aquarium. Large tubes and pumps mounted on the head of the pier suck up seawater which is then pumped from the pier's head to its entrance. One negative result is that the uninvited vampires of the saltwater aquarium trade drain SIO's seawater and sell it to the public (because the saltwater tap is publicly accessible).

Anyway, as this seawater sluice traverses the length of the pier all kinds of pellagic larvae end up inside and set-up shop. If you've ever wanted to see goose barnacles in action, all you have to do is pull up a panel and see 'em going at it! These little crustaceans are mysterious and beautiful, but most of us see them only in their anti-desiccation state when they have closed to await the ocean's return. When you see them in action, you start to realize they have their own personalities and attitudes. Thank you for introducing me to these goose barnacles, Scripps Pier!

Aside from wildlife encounters, in any other regard (except for checking surf), the place excels. It has majestic vistas from the chaparral cliffs of Torrey Pines down to the humble arc of La Jolla Cove, and it also has science happening in and around it and underneath it.

Actually, if one could pull one's drooling face from the scenery and wildlife interactions long enough, one could get some data for a good pier review. But even this is an immense task when such eminent pier reviewers might come walking by at any moment. What would they say about our methods? It would be like having Richard Pryor in the audience for your first open mic night.

One final note: aside from the public, surfers are explicitly excluded from Scrips Pier, due to a piece of technology called the "Surfer Exclusion Cage":

Thus, Scripps Pier is not a great place for checking surf (unless you are a Scripps researcher, in which case it's awesome).

Conclusion: Awesome pier. Sublime pier. Apotheosis of pier.