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Bolsa Chica Wetlands: Historical Armaments and Nesting Grounds

Bolsa Chica Wetlands: Historical Armaments and Nesting Grounds

Our first trip to Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach turned out to be quite the summer adventure.

The first day we went, there was a press conference in the interpretive center. There was no staff available to give us any direction on where to hike with kids. 

So I returned the next day with husband in tow. The interpretive center was closed when we arrived, but opened soon after.

Again, it was staffed by one volunteer and she was busy with other guests. We waited a while and ended up heading out on our own.

bolsa chica wetlands huntington beach - view of wetlands

Start your hike at the interpretive signs off the parking lot and then make your way over the bridge.

In the past,  you’d have to hike along the road until the awesome footbridge was added and now it’s much safer.

bolsa chica wetlands huntington beach - interpretive signs at trailhead
bolsa chica wetlands huntington beach - bridge from interpretive center

See anything in the water?

small fish in the water

My son’s comment on our 2 mile hike (roundtrip): “They should call it hotland not wetland.” Completely our mistake for going in the middle of the day!

We’ve since been back many times and it’s much more enjoyable in the early morning and late afternoon hours – or in the winter or spring. Here’s what the trail looks like in summer.

bolsa chica wetlands huntington beach - kids hiking

And here’s another view in spring – looks pretty different depending on the season!

spring flowers along the trail

How to Get to Bolsa Chica Wetlands Interpretive Center: The interpretive center is a small grey building at the southeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Warner. MAP to Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach

Highlights:

The fish tanks in the small interpretive center. Don’t miss the small room of the main display area with more reptiles and insects.

The sunrise and sunset is a beautiful time of day to visit with lots of waterfowl and beach views. We could see as far as Long Beach and Palos Verdes from the trail.

Easy flat hike with continuous ocean and wetlands views — interesting historical armaments and interpretive signs about the wetlands.

remains of historic armament

Pick up a maps, bird lists, and information from volunteers at the center.

I’ve spotted an incredible variety of birds here: Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Ridgeway Rails, Red Heron, Willets, Black Skimmer, Pintails, Buffleheads, Sandpipers, Avocets, Curlews, Dowitchers, and many more!

Can you spot the Great Blue Heron in this photo?

great blue heron in the wetlands

Be Aware:

I wouldn’t recommend going in the middle of the day because of the heat and bird-spotting isn’t as good in the middle of the day.

The interpretive center is small, so don’t expect it to take up much time.

It was a dusty hike when we went. I imagine it could be muddy in the winter. So wear appropriate shoes and bring LOTS of water and snacks for the kids. Even though it’s an easy hike, the interpretive center can seem far away if you need to use the restroom.

There are rattlesnakes here, so stay on the trail and make sure your little ones don’t run ahead of you. In March 2017, the OC Register ran a story about battling rattlesnakes at Bolsa Chica (but keep in mind the photographer was 40 feet away from the snakes). So if you stay aware, you should have plenty of warning.

Huge controversy surrounding nearby development of the land near the wetlands preserve. Do a search and you’ll come up with a long and interesting history of the battle.

Use caution and try not to leave any items in your car at Bolsa Chica Wetlands (or at any trailhead for that matter). Thieves know you might be leaving valuables in the car because you don’t want to carry anything on your walk. They also know you’ll be gone a while so the opportunity is there.

interpretive sign to help identify birds

Again, here’s a view of the trail in summer:

trail in summer

And here’s what it looks like in spring:

trail in spring

Checklist:

Originally published in September 2009.

red heron fishing in muddy wetlands
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve - PCH Entrance
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