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California's Native Grasslands

Visiting California Grasslands

California's native grasslands are incredibly diverse and biologically important ecosystems. Yet grasslands remain one of the most under-protected of California's vegetation types, and native grasslands have undergone the greatest percentage loss of any habitat type in the state, including much-publicized losses in wetland and riparian systems.

Access may be limited and conditions may have changed since these articles were published. Please check arrangements before you go. 

Red fescue at Big Sur. Photo: CNGA files

Northern California

Alameda County

  Brushy Peak Regional Preserve (Alameda County), by Michele Hammond, Grasslands Fall 2018

Butte County

North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve - Spring wildflowers, waterfalls, lava outcrops, and a rare type of vernal pool, called Northern Basalt Flow Vernal Pools, CDFW Lands Pass required. Follow link for more information

Contra Costa County

Point Pinole, East Bay Regional Parks, (Contra Costa County), by Jim Hanson, Calflora "Great Places.

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Richmond (Contra Costa County), by Ingrid Morken,Grasslands Winter 2014

The Grasslands of the Potrero San Pablo and Point Molate Shore (Contra Costa County), slightly modified by David Amme and reprinted with permission from the East Bay CNPS Newletter March , Grasslands Summer 2013

Original/early photograph of the “Molate Fescue” (Festuca rubra) along the Potrero San Pablo summit. Photo: David Amme, Published in Grasslands Summer 2013

Lassen County

Drakesbad Meadow (Lassen County), by Kendra Mosely, Calflora "Great Places"  updated 2020

Marin County

Azalea Hill/ Pine Mountain, (Marin County), by Andrea Williams, Grasslands Summer 2018

Jepson Prairie Preserve (Solano County), by Virginia Boucher, Grasslands Winter 2017

Hell's Half Acre, Lava Cap Wildflower Field (Nevada County), by Karen Callahan and Jennifer Buck-Diaz, Grasslands Winter 2016. 

Ridgecrest Boulevard, Mount Tamalpais (Marin County), by Andrea Williams, Grasslands Fall 2015

Mendocino County

Low Gap Park, Ukiah (Mendocino County), by Emily Allen, Grasslands Spring 2018

San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Yolo County

Windy Hill (San Mateo County), Monte Bello Open Space Preserves (Santa Clara County) and Cache Creek Natural Area (Yolo County) by Andrew Fulks, Grasslands Summer 2014.

Siskiyou County

Butte Valley National Grassland (Siskiyou County) 

Visiting the Grasslands (from US Forest Service Website) There are no designated recreation sites within Butte Valley National Grassland. However, a pleasant drive is available through the grassland. From Macdoel, go north 5.1 miles to Meiss Lake Sam's Neck Road. Follow that road west 4.9 miles, through the Grassland, to Indian Point Road. Go north along Indian Point Road for 4.6 miles, and admire the low rock bluffs on the west side. The sharp turn at Indian Point is a scenic spot to park and see the windmill. At Richardson Road, go east 5.2 miles back to Route 97, one mile south of Dorris. If coming from Dorris, simply take Richardson Road west to Indian Point Road, go south, and then return east on Meiss Lake Sam's Neck Road. See website for more details

For information on Butte Valley National Grassland, contact or visit the Goosenest Ranger District at 37805 Highway 97, Macdoel, CA 96058. Phone (530) 398-4391

Butte Valley Handout

Butte Valley National Grassland Map

Butte Valley National Grassland, U.S. National Forest Service 

Sonoma County

Watch Pepperwood Preserve's webinar, "California Grasslands - The Forest Beneath Our Feet" Pepperwood Foundation

Explore the complexity and beauty of California's grassland ecosystems with Pepperwood's Preserve Ecologist, Michelle Halbur. Learn how Pepperwood is managing our grasslands to support native biodiversity, healthy soils and water quality. Discover the impacts our grasslands have experienced from recent historic climate events: drought, rain, and wildfires.

Yolo County

City of Davis South Fork Preserve, by Christopher Gardner, Grasslands Winter 2019. Vol 29(1):8. 

Central California

Monterey County

Palo Corona Regional Park (Monterey County),  by Meghan J. Skaer, Grasslands Summer 2013

Photo: Palo Corona Regional Park. Photo: Meghan Skaer, 2013

San Luis Obispo County

The Shifting Mosaic of Carrizo Plaiin (San Luis Obispo County), by Jennifer Buck-Diaz,Grasslands Spring 2015 

Carrizo Plains National Monument, San Luis Obispo County

Carrizo Plain National Monument Visitor Center, 17495 Soda Lake Road, California Valley, CA 93453

Phone: 805-475-2131

Information Line: 805-475-2035

Email: BLM_CA_Web_BK@blm.go

Long-term study of extreme drought at Carrizo Plain

Conservation filmmakers Kyle Lancaster and Joe Flannery set up wildlife cameras to explore the Carrizo Plain National Monument’s desert grassland ecosystem.

Video: California Grasslands, Part 1: Elk and Pronghorn

First frames we hear tweets of western meadowlark. Tule elk were reintroduced from a pair of tule elk rediscovered in a tule marsh around 1876 in southern San Juaquin Valley. Pronghorn, closest relative is the giraffe! North America’s fastest animal. Striking images of the San Andreas Fault.

Video: California Grasslands, Part 2: Grassland Biodiversity

Films and discussion of American badgers, giant kangaroo rat, grasshopper sparrow, ravens, and western meadowlarks. The giant kangaroo rats are a keystone species and “the farmer[s] of southern California grasslands,” tending the soil and the plants.

Video: California Grasslands, Part 3: Trail of the Kit Fox

While on the trail of the elusive San Juaquin kit fox is the “mascot of endangered grassland habitat in California,” they come across many things including birds nesting and resting in rock face cavities: swallows ravens, and barn owls. Kit foxes are the smallest canid in North America, mate for life, have large ears that help with hunting and cooling. They are threatened by coyotes (more coyotes now without wolf predators), rodenticides, and dwindling habitat.

Southern California

Kern County

Tejon Ranch, Kern County Hikes are led by the Tejon Ranch Conservancy

Los Angeles County

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Los Angeles County

Riverside County

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (Riverside County), by Zachary Principe,Grasslands Winter 2013

Links to Grassland Parks and Spaces 

Access may be limited so be sure to check arrangements before you go. 

California Department of Fish & Wildlife Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas in California includes many grassland areas. 

Visit CA Grasslands

"Grasslands are not a drive-by landscape. Unless you get out in them and observe, you will never understand how diverse they are and how much is going on above and below the soil surface. From microbes to vertebrates, there is a big reward when you take the time to explore. That’s what I love—the reward of finding another mystery every time I look. "--Jeff Wilcox, CNGA Member. 

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