One of the few relatively undisturbed wetlands remaining on the California Central Coast, the Younger Lagoon Reserve encompasses a remnant Y-shaped lagoon on the open coast just north of Monterey Bay. Portions of a freestanding sea wall remain. Most of the time, the lagoon is cut off from the ocean by a barrier sand and rock bar. Infrequently, the mouth of Younger Lagoon opens to ocean waters.
The lagoon system provides protected habitat for 100 resident and migratory bird species. Approximately 25 species of water and land birds breed at the reserve, while more than 60 migratory bird species overwinter or stop there to rest and feed. Opossums, weasels, brush rabbits, and harvest mice are known to occupy the lagoon; gray and also red foxes and bobcats have been sighted.
Reserve habitats include salt and freshwater marsh, backdune pickleweed flat, steep bluffs with dense coastal scrub, pocket beach, grassland, and dense willow thickets. These provide outstanding opportunities for research and teaching. Diverse university courses using the site include environmental field methods, field sketching, restoration ecology, ornithology, environmental planning and policy, biology, natural history, environmental toxicology, plant systematics, independent studies, and senior theses. The lagoon and laboratory properties were given to the University in 1973 by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Younger.
Removal of invasive poison hemlock; development of a mature, diverse coastal scrub; some of this work performed by UC Santa Cruz undergraduates.
Water Quality Monitoring
Future development of a sampling program for lagoon waters.
- Effects of adjacent developments on vegetation communities and resident and migratory wildlife.
- Environmental impacts of lagoon isolation.
Santa Cruz County, 7 km (4.5 mi) from main Santa Cruz campus in Westside Santa Cruz; adjacent to the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Laboratory
Observation platform and access trail provide wheelchair access and full view of beach area without disturbance to wildlife or plants (and another overlook is planned); no on-site housing or laboratory facilities; site best suited for day use.
Annotated checklist of over 100 bird species documented on site available through the reserve director. Observed/expected lists available for vertebrate species and plants as well.
Reserve director (Elizabeth Howard) and restoration steward (Tim Brown) .
29 hectares (72 acres)
0 to 15 m (50 ft.)
62 cm (24 in.) per year.
Winter: 12ºC (54ºF)
Summer: 15ºC (59ºF)