Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve

Set in the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Big Sur coast, the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve encompasses several miles of rugged ridges, which flank the Pacific Ocean and descend to a rocky shoreline. From there, the reserve extends approximately one mile offshore into the Big Creek State Marine Reserve. Extremes in topographic and vegetative diversity at this site range from kelp forests and flat and rocky ocean-bottom habitats reaching 100 meters in depth to multiple upland habitats: coastal scrub, redwood forest, coastal grasslands, oak woodlands, and pine-oak forest and woodlands. The reserve also protects perennial streams and the lower portions of a remote, pristine watershed, which supports a significant run of southern steelhead trout. Big Creek flows strongly year round, even during drought years, and its different forks have unique mineralogical regimes. The region's active tectonic history has produced a wealth of rock formations, complex geological faults, and dozens of springs, some of which are warm. Part of the California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve Cluster under the United Nations Scientific, Educational, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve is protected by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Big Sur Skiff Fishing Survey

Cooperative project involving local fishermen provides data on status of kelp forest fishery and fish populations.

Santa Lucia Natural History Symposium

Gathering of researchers who conduct field work in the region.

Big Creek water-quality monitoring

Periodic monitoring of Big Creek, including bacterial counts, stream insects, and other parameters.

Selected Research

  • Prehistoric subsistence patterns and central coast archaeology.
  • Long-term change in intertidal and subtidal communities.
  • Biological diversity and ecology of Lepidoptera, including fire succession. Effects of European honey bee on native social bees. Ecology of speciation in Timema walking sticks.
  • Marine fish populations within and adjacent to marine reserve. Baseline studies on genetics, behavior, and ecology of southern steelhead trout.
  • Landscape-scale modeling and surveying of plant-climate interactions. Deepcrustal geology of central California.

Special Research of National Significance

  • PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans): Large-scale marine science research program that focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific coast and involves collaborating scientists from four universities.

Photo Gallery

Contact Information
Mark Readdie, Director
Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
58801 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
Phone: 831-667-2543

Big Creek Website

Big Sur Coast, Monterey County, 80 km (50 mi.) south of Monterey; 2-hour drive from Santa Cruz campus.
Google Map

Three campgrounds; visitor cabin/lab for ten at Whale Point; small lab/library; 21 km (13 mi.) of trails; 16 km (10 mi.) of dirt roads; limited parking; beach access for small boats onto marine reserve.

Plant List
On-site geographic information system (GIS); teaching collections; published surveys; computer text files for plants, animals, cultural/archaeological surveys; weather data; stream monitoring and marine fish monitoring; regional bibliographies.

Resident director, two on-site stewards.

1,752 hectares (4,328 acres); additional 2,239 hectares (5,528 acres) accessible by use agreement

Reserve: 0 to 1,067 m (0 to 3,500 ft.) Top of watershed at Cone Peak: 1,571 m (5,155 ft.)

Average Precipitation
62 cm (25 in.) at coast; 102 cm (40 in.) along ridges; higher on upper peaks

Average Temperatures
Lower elevations (0 to 100 ft.):
January 5.5-15.8ºC (42-60ºF)
August 10.9-20.9ºC (52-70ºF)
Higher elevations (2,000+ ft):
January 6.0-14.1ºC (43-57ºF)
July 18.4-29.4ºC (65-85ºF)

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