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Words and photos by Brianna Muldong, Multimedia Producer at OC Coastkeeper

This past November, I joined our education team on a field trip to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve with Santiago High School. Did you know? Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is the largest saltwater marsh between Monterey Bay and the Tijuana River!

Students first arrived at Bolsa Chica Conservancy, where they had a chance to check out the interpretive center. The interpretive center holds loads of history about the Ecological Reserve, featuring exhibits, aquariums, taxidermy, live reptiles, and interpretive panels.

The students were then split into two groups, each one taking a hike through the expansive 1,300-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve along the Mesa trail. The reserve is a crucial habitat for various species of plants and animals, especially our shorebirds!

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is recognized as a Nationally Significant Bird Area, with over 200 species identified there. Throughout the hike, we spotted many birds hanging around in the air and in the waters. As we transition into the winter season, November through February is one of the best times to birdwatch here!

We stopped at the Mesa Point Overlook, where there were information boards delving into the reserve’s history, explaining details like the area’s Indigenous significance and Bolsa Chica Gun Club.

We ended the hike at the Tide Gate path, where we used binoculars to check out the fish underneath the bridge and more birds around the wetlands.

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve plays a vital role in protecting and preserving open space, as most coastal wetlands have been destroyed. Bolsa Chica Conservancy frequently brings in volunteers to remove tens of thousands of invasive plant material, as well as trash and debris from waterways. Learn more about their restoration events by clicking here!

Looking back on this field trip, students (and I!) took away valuable lessons about the restoration of wetlands and the significance of sustainable environmental practices. This field trip is just one of the many ways WHALES is committed to shaping the next generation into future watershed heroes through field trips and in-class exercises.

This program is funded by the Outdoor Equity Grants Program, created through AB 209 and administered by California State Parks, Office of Grants and Local Services.

Explore the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve: