Huntington Beach
Site  / HB Maps
Calendar -Events
Photo Gallery

Bird murals  
Central Park
Nature center

Places to stay
Huntington Beach Hotels
CA Resorts & Hotels
Homes for Sale

Bolsa Chica SB
Dog beach
HB City Beach
HB State Beach
Sunset Beach
Beach Firerings
Beach Parking
Beach paths






Bolsa Chica Wetlands
"Wetlands of International Importance" in accordance with the Ramsar Convention

Pacific Coast Highway between Seapoint & Warner Ave.
Size: 300 acres with  1.5 mile trail

Free admission & parking  Hours:  6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 
Restrictions:  No dogs, bicycles or horses 

Huntington Beach - Bordered on one side by Pacific Coast Highway and oil fields and houses on the other, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve wetlands is a 300 acre coastal sanctuary for wildlife and migratory birds. There's a wooden bridge crossing over a tidal inlet and a 1.5 mile loop trail providing spectacular wildlife viewing.

Over 8,000 years ago, Native American Indians lived on bluffs overlooking these wetlands Much has changed since then. In the more recent past, Southern California once counted 53,000 acres of wetland areas. It is down to  13,000 acres now. 

Site Pages about Bolsa Chica Wetlands worth exploring:

Bolsa Chica History Book by David Carlberg, Huntington Beach
Bolsa Chica Bridge at Wetlands Opens in Huntington Beach
Bolsa Chica Wetlands Pelican on A Fence Image
Bolsa Chica State Beach Views of Long Beach Skyline
Bolsa Chica Walkbridge is rebuilt
Bolsa Chica Wetlands Conservancy in Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach Wetlands Tidal Inlet Slide Show

Progress and growth has taken its toll to the tune of  a 91% loss of  wetlands in California,  more than any other state.  Many migratory birds are dependent on the remaining wetlands, with 20% of North America's migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway. Birds wintering in California's wetlands have declined from 60 million to 2 million, largely because of destruction of this habitat. 

New progress was recently made through the construction and opening of a $100 million bridge overpass to allow an inlet from the Pacific Ocean to be built and opened to the wetlands, allowing for the first time in over 100 years, the ocean waters to enter the wetlands located on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway. With the hopes of refreshing and restoring an integral and significant habitat key to this Pacific flyway stopover for endangered birds, the experiment was financed by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, in trade for expansion and acquisition of additional coastal land for port use.

For the Pacific flyway as a whole, there has been some improvement over the past ten years, partly because of the end of a multi-year drought in the northern breeding areas for these birds, but also because of a successful effort to restore California wetlands.

BOLSA CHICA WETLANDS MAPOver the past decade, there has been a 30% decline in the commercial landings of fish that depend on wetlands in California. There was once a very active and productive fishing industry in Los Angeles and 
Orange counties, but today it is almost non-existent. This is largely due to the loss of most of our coastal 

When entering the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach, look right (south) for two sand islands where California Least Terns and Snowy Plovers nest. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve offers free parking and admission. Bikes, horses and dogs are not permitted on the trail.

163 pairs of Endangered Belding's Savannah Sparrows live, breed and nest at Bolsa Chica.  Look for rare Light-footed Clapper Rails which  have recently been spotted.  On any day, you might see Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, White and Brown Pelicans, Avocets and Black-necked Stilts, to name a few. 

In the fall and winter seasons, Lesser Scaups, Red-Breasted Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks and  Common Loons come to visit.  Tours are given on Saturday mornings, through several groups. Call the Amigos de Bolsa Chica  (714) 840-1575 for tour information. A new trend in tourism involves participatory activities. If this is your thing, you can help clean up the Wetlands and make local friends on your visit to Huntington Beach. Saturday clean ups are sponsored by the Bolsa Chica Conservancy (714) 846-1114. 

Getting to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve wetlands area traveling from the North, exit San Diego Freeway (405), at Seal Beach Boulevard and travel west toward the beach. Take a left on Pacific Coast Highway and drive south past Warner Avenue intersection. Turn left at the next stoplight into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Traveling north toward Huntington Beach on the San Diego Freeway (405), exit Golden West Street. Drive west to Pacific Coast Highway and turn right where Golden West ends. Drive two stoplights and turn right into the parking lot of the Reserve at the second light (past Seapoint). If you see Warner Avenue intersection, you have gone too far.


Cleanup and Earthmoving. From the time of the groundbreaking for the restoration of the Bolsa Chica wetland on October 6, 2004, work has proceeded in earnest. Sixty one oil wells and associated machinery have been removed, including 121,454 feet of pipe. Thirteen miles of exploratory ditches have been dug to look for additional buried pipe and other hazardous debris from over 50 years of oil operations. Heavy machinery has moved in to remove brush and to begin preliminary contouring of the land to convert it from an oil field to a functioning wetland. Dewatering was begun almost immediately to reduce the high water table that prevents heavy machinery from operating.  However, much of the heavy earthmoving work has been delayed due to the intense rains that occurred in January. Dewatering must continue until dryer conditions return.

Seapoint Traffic Signal. The city of Huntington Beach has approved the installation of a temporary traffic light at the oil field gate at Seapoint Drive. The signal is necessary to provide safe movement of construction traffic in and out of the project site. Installation should be completed by the end of January.  

PCH Bridge. Before construction can proceed for the bridge that is to allow PCH traffic to pass over  the ocean inlet to the restored wetland, detours around the construction site had to be provided. The northbound PCH detour is now completed and in use, the southbound lanes should be completed by the end of February. PCH bicycle lanes have been rerouted through Bolsa Chica State Beach. The bridge, consisting of four traffic lanes, two bicycle lanes, a beach maintenance /emergency lane and an additional oil well maintenance bridge will be completed by October, 2005.

Loop Trail.
The trail that connects the Ecological Reserve parking lot with the tide gate overlook will be closed to allow construction of a taller embankment. The trail should be completed by the end of 2005. However, California Department of Fish and Game may close the footbridge about that some time to rebuild the bridge and parking lot. Access to the loop trail will still be open from Warner Avenue via the Wintersburg Channel tide gate.    

Water Barrier. To protect adjacent homeowners from saltwater intrusion, a barrier structure will be constructed along the entire eastern edge of the restored wetland. This will prevent saltwater from entering nearby aquifers, and also prevent excessive fresh groundwater from accumulating in the residential area. Pumps will capture accumulated water and return it to the wetland. Pumps will be small and installed in soundproof concrete vaults.

Observation Viewpoints.
Three public observation viewpoints will be constructed as part of the restoration. One will be at the eastern terminus of the Ecological Reserve footbridge, and two at the south slope of the Wintersburg flood control channel embankment. One will be near the tide gates and one a couple of hundred yards east of the tide gates.

Boundary Fence and Construction Noise.
A number of residents along the eastern edge of the wetland expressed concern over the appearance of the chain link fence that will be placed along that portion of the wetland. They asked if more visually pleasing alternatives could be considered, such as a vinyl-coated fence or landscaping to hide the fence. Alternatively, it was suggested to place the fence on the west side of the embankment, which is to be rebuilt. The project steering committee had not focused on that detail as yet and will begin researching alternatives. One neighbor complained of noise and bright lights during late night and early morning hours in the Seapoint area. The complaints will be followed up.

Fieldstone Property.  Sale of the 42 acre Fieldstone property to the state is imminent. Cleanup plan for the PCBs has been approved by the state and Kiewit Pacific, the construction contractor, will probably do the cleanup, since they already have the necessary equipment on site. If the sale is timely, the property can be included in the restoration.

Summary by David Carlberg
Amigos de Bolsa Chica
January 31, 2005

Note: Additional information about the Bolsa Chica restoration can be obtained at the project web site: