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Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

In Moss Beach, California, just north of Pillar Point Harbor in San Mateo County is Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. The 32-acre (0.13 square kilometer) Reserve extends from the Montara light station on the north to Pillar Point on the south. On the east is the Seal Cove Fault, first described and named by Dr. William Glen in 1959. The fault extends northward under the Pacific Ocean and presumably joins the San Andreas Fault near the xenophobic and carefully hidden :-) town of Bolinas.

A detailed (and fascinating) history of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is on the Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Web site, as is another page on the biodiversity of the tide pools. The link labeled “Crevice Pools” leads to a page with wonderful photos of the life forms that can be found at the Reserve. The Reserve was named after James V. Fitzgerald, a former mayor of San Bruno and member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

If you would turn around to the left of the position where I took the photo above, you might see this scene of California poppies at another time of the year. If you continue down this path to the bench by the wheelbarrow and look to the right, you would see this scene of houses overlooking the Pacific surf (as we did, earlier this month). Turn to the left and you would see this scene of the mouth of San Vicente Creek (1) and an area, protected by cones and a ranger, where harbor seals “haul out” to warm up. Look straight ahead and you would see people exploring the tide pools, even on a day like the day we were there (about an hour before a +0.9-foot low tide), in which heavy surf was breaking over the outside rocks.

The rare plant Hickman’s potentilla (Potentilla hickmanii), an endangered species, was observed near the mouth of San Vicente Creek in 1933, but the colony has not been documented in recent years. Another colony of the plant was discovered near the end of the 20th century, north of Moss Beach. The endangered San Bruno elfin butterfly has been sighted next to the Reserve, in Montara.

Among the wildlife to be seen are: California sea lions, harbor seals, cormorants, Great blue herons, snowy egrets, terns, murres, gulls, sea urchins, sea anemones, hermit crabs, rails, rabbits, and passerines.

A footbridge across San Vicente Creek leads to the forested Bluff Trail, 30 meters (98.4 feet) above the beach, with wonderful views out to sea.

The (very small – think “toll booth”, but the Reserve is free!) visitor center has the times of low and high tides prominently displayed.

At the southern end of the reserve is the Moss Beach Distillery (not an endorsement; rumored to be haunted, of course, by the “Blue Lady“) that has served as a clifftop restaurant since 1927. To the east of the reserve is a the Seal Cove Inn (not an endorsement), which, according to Wikipedia, is operated by noted travel author Karen Brown.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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