Dog Boats and Rum Runners in State Parks: San Luis Obispo County in the Prohibition Era


  • Dates: December 1, 2021 - June 1, 2022
  • Recurrence: Recurring daily
  • Location: Spooner Ranch House
  • Address: 3550 Pecho Valley Road Los Osos, CA 93402

The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo has researched and designed an exhibition that reveals the real history of Prohibition in Spooner’s Cove and on the Estero Bluffs. The exhibition will be on display at the Spooner Ranch House in Montaña de Oro State Park from Dec. 1, 2021 until June 1, 2022. 

The 1920s is a decade characterized in history books as the “Roaring Twenties,” a period of urbanization, consumerism, and increasing social freedoms represented by flappers and jazz music. But the ‘20s was also the decade of Prohibition, when alcohol production and sale was outlawed by the federal government, condemning many California vineyards and wineries to bankruptcy. Many Californians chose to break the law and purchase alcoholic beverages illegally through bootleggers, local wineries, the black market, and in speakeasies. In isolated San Luis Obispo County, alcohol was smuggled into the region through small, unregulated ports, one of which was located at Spooner’s Cove in present-day Montaña de Oro State Park. 

The new exhibition explores this fascinating local history. An exhibition launch event co-sponsored by the Wine History Project and Central Coast State Parks Association will occur on Thursday, Dec. 2nd, from 4:30-7:30pm at the Spooner Ranch House in Montaña de Oro State Park. A 55-minute documentary exploring the history of Prohibition, titled “America’s Wine: The Legacy of Prohibition,” will be projected on the lawn outside the Spooner Ranch House upon sundown at 4:45pm. Speakeasy-themed nonalcoholic drinks will be served outside the Spooner Ranch House to keep attendees warm as they learn about this interesting period in California’s past. Carla de Luca, director of the film, will provide comments and respond to Q&A after the screening. This event is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring folding chairs and blankets for the outdoor film screening, and will have the opportunity to tour the new exhibition in the Spooner Ranch House before and after the screening. Masks will be required indoors, and social distancing is encouraged. 

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