Overview: In this oasis between the ocean and the edge of Santa Cruz lies one of the largest monarch butterfly overwintering sites in the... more »
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In this oasis between the ocean and the edge of Santa Cruz lies one of the largest monarch butterfly overwintering sites in the... more » western United States. The park also includes large coastal scrub meadows that in spring are filled with native wildflowers.
In 1983, California State Parks made the monarch grove a natural preserve and sanctuary for these fragile world travelers. Monarchs journey as far as 2,000 miles on their paper-thin wings, seeking protected places like this one where they can find food, warmth and shelter. This grove provides the ideal conditions for the butterflies—and for you to see them. Look through the spotting scope to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking sight of hundreds of monarchs clustered together in the canopy.
The park also includes large coastal scrub meadows that in spring are filled with native wildflowers. Moore Creek flows through the meadows and forms wetlands in the sand.
2531 West Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Open 8:00 to sunset
Wi-Fi access available with wireless enabled laptop... more » computers or personal digital assistants (PDAs) to access the Internet. Park visitors will be able to gain Wi-Fi access when they use a wireless device within about 150 to 200 feet of the Visitor Center in the park.
Please, do not touch or throw objects at the fragile butterflies.
For everyone's enjoyment, no smoking, dogs, bicycles, skates, or skateboards on the boardwalk.
Quiet please. Monarchs and other visitors are relaxing.
There are monarch tours on weekends from mid-October through February.
Celebrate the monarchs' return with the Welcome Back Monarchs Day in October and their departure at the Migration Festival in February.
In 1983, California State Parks made this monarch grove a natural preserve and sanctuary for these fragile world travelers. The Monarch Grove provides the ideal conditions for the butterflies, and for you to see them.
Visitors can view the over-wintering Monarchs by walking down the park's wheelchair and stroller-accessible boardwalk to an... More observation deck in the eucalyptus grove.
Lots of eucalyptus trees were imported from Australia in the 1850s with the hope that these fast-growing trees would provide lumber for coastal development. The splintery wood proved useless as lumber, but the long, slender leaves provided perfect spots for resting monarch butterflies.
Can you spot the two different types of eucalyptus that grow in this park? Both have the aromatic oil with its distinctive odor. The leaves of the red gum (Eucalyptus rostrata) are about five inches long and narrow. Rain leaches acids out of eucalyptus and into the soil, keeping many other species from growing at the base of the trees.
The leaves of the blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) are a little longer and wider. Butterflies love to cling to the long, narrow leaves. This variety also has large blue seedpods that have a distinctive cross on top-- making them look something like a button.Less
During the winter, groundwater fills this half acre and turns it into a bustling habitat for red-winged blackbirds, belted kingfisher, American coot, American bittern, Sora, Virginia rails, and even great blue herons. Can you hear any frogs? That could be a Pacific chorus frog or a Red-legged frog.
These natural benches were formed a million... More years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. They provide a good resting spot for observing the plants, animals and insects that live in and around the pond.
These plants provide cover for nesting birds. The Central Coast Ohlone Indians relied on tule to make their houses, mats, boats, rope and clothing. Ponds like this one are home to one of the the smallest flowering plant-- a species of duckweed (Lemna sp.).
Cattails were an important food source for the Ohlone-- everything from the roots to the fuzzy seeds is edible.
Red-winged Blackbird, a common pond resident at Natural Bridges.
Image source: Alan D. Wilson, www.naturespicsonline.com
P. regilla is the most commonly heard frog in this pond, and throughout California. Its call is known throughout the world because it is used so often in the movies.
Image Source: Wikipedia
A common pond visitor here in Natural Bridges State Beach.
Image source: Photo PattyLess
Today's meadows are very different from the meadows the Ohlone knew. The Spanish missionaries converted open lands to cattle pasture in the late 18th century. The Europeans also brought nonnative meadow species, such as wild oats and other grasses, plantain, wild radish and wild mustard. Many of these plants now dominate the landscape.
Related to... More the garden radish, the wild radish (Raphanus sativus) is easily identified by its soft yellow, white or purple flowers and pod-like capsules. Unlike the garden radish, the roots of the wild radish are too woody to eat.
Early settlers in California recognized the medicinal properties of plantain (Plantago major). Applying a poultice made from the leaves to snake or insect bites removes toxins. You can also eat the leaves and seeds of this plant.
The distinctive flower of plantain was a welcome sight to settlers and native inhabitants alike.Less
The fluffy white flowers (not shown) on this densely growing shrub give the plant its name: coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis). It looks as though it has caught the downy fur of a passing coyote! This plant can grow in thin soil with little water. The wood burns easily, but the roots regenerate quickly after a fire.
Poison hemlock (Conium... More maculatum) is of European origin, and is related to carrots and parsnips. However, all parts of this plant are highly toxic.
The purplish patches on the stem are a distinguishing feature of the imported Poison hemlock. In ancient Greece hemlock tea was used for executions.Less
How can you tell the age of a Monterey pine (Pinus radiata)? Count the whorls of existing branches and broken stubs extending from the trunk. Each year, a new whorl of branches emerges from the tree top. This species is restricted to the Central Coast. It not only can survive fires, it needs the heat to release its seeds, which then flourish in... More the scorched soil.Less
These Monterey cypress trees (Cupressus macrocarpa) have been sculpted by the wind. With one of the most restricted ranges of any tree in California, this species grows only in narrow strips along the Central Coast. Recognize it by looking at the female cones: they look like little soccer balls!
Can you tell who's been here? Look in the soft soil... More for signs of some of the park's inhabitants. See if you can tell the footprints of a skunk from those of a raccoon, or a cat from a fox.
Image Source: WikimediaLess
The spot where you're standing might have been a luxury hotel, if early Santa Cruz settler Fred W. Swanton had had his way. The wealthy entrepreneur built the casino and boardwalk a few miles south. In 1881, he owned this land and planned to develop it before bankruptcy ended his dream. The State of California bought this land in 1933.
Once there were three natural bridges carved by the waves out of the Santa Cruz mudstone. Town residents used to drive onto the bridges to picnic or have weddings. Human use, coupled with the pounding wind and waves, helped erode the formations. The first bridge fell in the early 1900s and the second in 1980 after a heavy storm.
Moore Creek originates in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flows through the park out to the ocean. Water samples taken here show evidence of human contamination from industry and development.
The Ring-tailed cat ((Bassariscus astutus), also known as the ringtail or cacomistle, is an endangered nocturnal species related to the Raccoon. It has been... More sighted along upper Moore Creek. Further contamination of this water source could have dire consequences for this rare species.
Image Source: Joachim S. MüllerLess