Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the central California coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el país grande del sur", "the big country of the south". The terrain offers stunning views, making Big Sur a popular tourist destination. Big Sur's Cone Peak is the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 states, ascending nearly a mile (5,155 feet/1571 m) above sea level, only three miles (4.8 km) from the ocean.
Although Big Sur has no specific boundaries, many definitions of the area include the 90 miles (140 km) of coastline between the Carmel River and San Carpoforo Creek, and extend about 20 miles (32 km) inland to the eastern foothills of the Santa Lucias. Other sources limit the eastern border to the coastal flanks of these mountains, only three to 12 miles (19 km) inland.
The northern end of Big Sur is about 120 miles (190 km) south of San Francisco, and the southern end is approximately 245 miles (394 km) northwest of Los Angeles.

Big Sur remains sparsely populated, with about 1000 inhabitants, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The people of Big Sur today are a diverse mix: descendants of the original settler and rancher families, artists and other creative types, along with wealthy home-owners from the worlds of entertainment and commerce. Real estate costs are as high as the views, with most homes priced above $2 million. There are no urban areas, although three small clusters of gas stations, restaurants, and motels are often marked on maps as "towns": Big Sur, in the Big Sur River valley, Lucia, near Limekiln State park, and Gorda, on the southern coast. The economy is almost completely based on tourism. Much of the land along the coast is privately owned or has been donated to the state park system, while the vast Los Padres National Forest and Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation encompass most of the inland areas. The mountainous terrain, environmentally conscious residents, and lack of property available for development have kept Big Sur almost unspoiled, and it retains an isolated, frontier mystique.
The Basin Complex Fire of 2008 forced a two-week evacuation of Big Sur and the closure of Highway 1, beginning just before the July 4 holiday weekend.
The fire, which burned over 130,000 acres (530 km2), represented the largest of many wildfires that had broken out throughout California during the same period. Although the fire caused no loss of life, it destroyed 27 houses, and the tourist-dependent economy lost about a third of its expected summer revenue.

(by Wikipedia)

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