Santa Clara River Estuary and McGrath State Beach
Habitat: Coastal estuary, salt marsh, riparian.
Location: From Hwy 101, exit at Seaward Ave. Turn left (south) onto Harbor Blvd. Continue south to Spinnaker Drive. Turn right onto Spinnaker and continue past entrance to Ventura Water Treatment Plant (Site #9). Park at Surfer’s Knoll (parking lot on left, to reach it you take a U-turn once you’ve passed the lot). From parking lot walk down to estuary (approx. 400 yards). During May-August avoid fenced-off Least Tern colony on your way down there. Also check the breakwaters at the end of Spinnaker drive for turnstones, tattler and surfbird. Channel Islands National Park Headquarters are at end of Spinnaker Drive, while Island Packers boats for Santa Cruz Island leave from dock off Spinnaker Drive. For a shorter walk and better lighting during mid-day, continue south on Harbor Blvd. Over bridge and turn into McGrath State Beach (fee). Park at head of nature trail and follow out to the estuary.
Highlights: shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Least Tern and Snowy Plover nest on north side of estuary. Peregrine Falcon often present in estuary during winter. Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Wandering Tattler often visible on breakwaters during winter.
Best season: All year. Shorebirds July-September, gulls October-March. Least Terns (May-August).