PLEASE NOTE: For information on public use regulations for this area and other Department lands, refer to the CDFW Public Lands Regulations. All visitors are responsible for knowing and following these regulations.
This ecological reserve is adjacent to or shares marine habitat with a Marine Protected Area (MPA). For the public use regulations for MPAs, see Section 632, Title 14, CCR.
Activities: wildlife viewing, hiking, and tours
Each parking lot connects to a 4-mile network of public hiking trails, including scenic overlooks. Please note that due to active oil and gas production by California Resources Corporation, a portion of the reserve is closed to public access.
An interpretive center operated by the Bolsa Chica Conservancy is located by the north lot.
Free docent-led tours are provided by three non-government organizations: Amigos de Bolsa Chica, Bolsa Chica Conservancy and Bolsa Chica Land Trust. Each parking lot features a bulletin board with information.
The total area of this reserve has increased over time. In the 1970s, the State acquired 300 acres of the Bolsa Chica wetlands. The property was designated as an ecological reserve by the Fish and Game Commission in 1993. In 2005, funds from proposition 50 allowed for the purchase of 118 acres on the Bolsa Chica Mesa. Finally in late 2006, following a major restoration project that included the creation of a new marine basin, an additional 923 acres was added bringing the total acreage to approximately 1,341.
Nesting bird species: Ridgway’s rail (formally light-footed clapper rail); Western snowy plover, California least tern, Belding’s Savannah sparrow, white-tailed kite, black skimmer, elegant tern, Forster’s tern, Caspian tern, white-faced ibis, American avocet and black-necked stilt
Other noteworthy birds: peregrine falcon, burrowing owl, California gnatcatcher, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s hawk, osprey, reddish egret, and tri-colored blackbird
Land mammals: coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, cottontail rabbit, California ground squirrel, pocket gopher, brown marsh rat, deer mice, and bats
Reptiles: California legless lizard, Southern Pacific rattlesnake, common king snake, San Diego gopher snake, two-striped garter snake, Southern alligator lizard, Western fence lizard and side-blotched lizard
Marine life: over 60 species of marine fishes, marine invertebrates, and occasionally California sea lion and green sea turtle
Plants: rushes, bulrushes, sedges, California sage, mule fat, and coyote bush
Rare and endangered plants: California seablite, woolly seablite, coast woolly-heads and red sand verbena