10 Reasons to LOVE Bolsa Chica

The first time I visited Bolsa Chica I was wearing a bright orange vest, rain boats, and binoculars. I had volunteered with one of my then professors (Dr. Michael Horn, CSUF) who studies the Elegant Terns who nest on North Tern Island. After we rowed to the island, we carefully climbed into the blind (an area hidden away where we can observe the birds without disturbing them), and proceeded to record the types of food the adults were carrying to the nests. I confess, I’m not really up on my fish IDs, so I could only really say if it was a pipefish, a squid, or other (mostly being silversides or anchovies). Regardless, just being surrounded by noisy, smelly, zipping birds was thrilling. I was hooked.

But why do other people come back over and over to Bolsa Chica? Why should YOU love Bolsa Chica?

1. Serenity. From dawn to dusk you will see people strolling through the Reserve take in the sea air, hear the birds, watch the sun paint the sky, and just take a break from the rush of the day. There are no billboards or advertisements screaming for your attention, just lizards sunning themselves and birds preening. Bolsa Chica makes it easy to be one with nature.

2. Photography. If you want to see people with giant lens, tripods and camo, visit the wooden walking bridge at sunrise. Bolsa Chica is known in the photography world as a wonderful place to get excellent photos of birds (and other wildlife) up close and personal. Just look at our annual calendars.

3. Exercise. Part of being healthy is doing some form of exercise a few times a week. It’s also been shown that being out in nature is good for your health. Why not combine the two and exercise in the natural refreshing beauty of Bolsa Chica?! Just keep in mind that bikes and dogs are not allowed on the Reserve trails. As one young volunteer told me, she loves to walk the bridges.

4. Animals/Birding. One of my favorite reasons to love Bolsa Chica is the wildlife. Bolsa Chica is part of the Pacific Flyway migratory path for birds so each season we have different birds. We also have audacious ospreys, gaggles of geese, scores of snakes and lizards, furry mammals, and all sorts of sea life including sharks, rays, jumping mullet and more. Not to mention many endangered animals. So grab your binoculars and field guides for a wildlife filled day.

photo: Jane Lazarz
photo: Jane Lazarz

5. Plants. Ok, not everyone loves plants, but as my Stewards and Jr. Stewards will attest to, planting native plants is a lot of fun! We have some amazing smelling plants (CA sagebrush for example), beautiful wildflowers, and by planting them, we are helping the wildlife. Many volunteers tell me how cathartic it is to restore the Mesa during our volunteer days (first Sunday and third Saturday every month open to everyone!).

6. Family. “You can come and enjoy with your family”- Devyn Jr. Steward. There is no better way to say it, Bolsa Chica is great for all ages! Being out in nature is one of the best ways to bond as a family. From toddlers, teenagers, adults and grandparents there something here for everyone. I love seeing the wonder and awe from all ages as a murmuration (a flock of birds that create amazing acrobats in the air in formation) flies by, or an osprey dives and catches a fish. Bolsa Chica is an outdoor classroom where children and adults alike can learn about and appreciate nature.

7. It’s FREE! What more is there to say? Unlike the beach or other natural areas, our parking lot is free. And the Reserve is open all year round.

8. It’s a wetland. Why should you care? Because wetlands act as a buffer mitigating flooding, a filter for purifying water and recharging groundwater, a nursery for sea life and very high biodiversity (considered a biotic hotspot), and carbon storage. Wetlands save your homes, your schools, work places, churches, your water, your food, and the air you breathe.

9. Local. The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is not hours away, but right in the heart of the urban center of Southern California. This makes it much more accessible to all communities. We have groups from the middle of LA to the locals coming to volunteer and experience Bolsa Chica. Some might, at first glance, think that Orange County is a cement jungle and parking lot, but we are a shining gem of natural green space in this highly urbanized locale.

10. Cultural site/history. As you walk Bolsa Chica, remember, you are in good company. For 9,000 years people have been enjoying, respecting, and loving Bolsa Chica. There is a rich history of use, abuse, and ultimately the unity of the local community fighting to protect and restore it. You can even see some of the history with the WWII gun mounts still there as relics of another time.

And one last reason to love Bolsa Chica: Because of everyday people like YOU who banded together to protect this natural treasure; now everyone can love Bolsa Chica too!

photo: Jane Lazarz
photo: Jane Lazarz


Just for fun, our Steward volunteer Mike Armstrong shares his 10 reasons he loves Bolsa Chica:
1) It’s healing after long abuse; if IT can heal, ANYPLACE probably can.
2) 5-star migrating bird resort/spa.
3) We’re #1 in Round Stingrays!
4) Not a suburb.
5) Our Pocket Gophers are the cutest animal ever!
6) No, wait, our Legless Lizards are the cutest animal ever!
7) Our rattlesnakes are REALLY “pacific” Pacific Rattlesnakes!
8) We’ve got more eager egrets than greedy grebes.
9) Suthun’ Tah Plant is jus’ the SWEETEST lil’ thang!

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