by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Brochure of Año Nuevo State Park (SP) in California. Published by California Department of Parks and Recreation.
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Our Mission Año Nuevo State Park The mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. Rugged Año Nuevo Point draws visitors from around the world to witness elephant seals mate, give birth, and rest from long sea voyages. California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park at (650) 879-2025. If you need this publication in an alternate format, contact email@example.com. CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 For information call: (800) 777-0369 (916) 653-6995, outside the U.S. 711, TTY relay service www.parks.ca.gov Año Nuevo State Park Highway 1 at New Years Creek Road 20 Miles North of Santa Cruz Pescadero, CA 94060 (650) 879-2025 © 2012 California State Parks (Rev. 2016) Printed on Recycled Paper F ifty-five miles south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, a low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean. This promontory was named Punta del Año Nuevo (New Year’s Point) for the day Don Sebastian Vizcaíno first sighted it on January 3, 1603. Between December and late March, northern elephant seals come ashore to rest, mate, and give birth on the beaches, sand dunes, and nearby offshore island. The sight of huge male elephant seals battling for mating rights is a unique and unforgettable natural spectacle that thousands of visitors come to witness each year. PARK HISTORY Native People When Sebastian Vizcaíno first saw what is now Año Nuevo Point, the area had already been occupied for thousands of years by the Quiroste people, a group of Ohlone Indians who lived here seasonally. Elephant seal colony in January The Quiroste hunted, fished, and gathered abalone and other shellfish from the sea. They made spear and arrow points, knives, and scrapers from chert stone gathered on the beach. The park’s Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve safeguards the remnants of native Ohlone presence. Mexican California. Today’s Ohlone people have kept their ancient cultural traditions alive. Año Nuevo, used as pasture land by the missionaries, became a rancho in 1842 when Governor Juan Alvarado granted 17,753 acres to his uncle, Don José Simeon de Nepomuceno Castro of Monterey. American Settlers In 1851, Castro’s heirs sold the European Contact rancho to frontiersman Isaac The Ohlone people’s first Graham. Ten years later, the land Drawing of Ohlone hunter was bought by brothers Isaac, contact with non-natives by Mark Hylkema, 1987 came in 1769, when the George, and Edgar Steele, whose Spanish military commander dairy operated here for about 80 years. of the Californias, Gaspar de Portolá, The barns and other historic buildings at traveled overland to the area north of Año Nuevo date from the Steele Brothers today’s San Francisco Bay. Dairy era. After the 1791 founding of Mission Santa After World War II, the dairy industry Cruz, hundreds of Ohlone — including the changed. Row-crop farming took the place Quiroste — were baptized and brought of dairy cattle, thanks to new irrigation into the mission. Some Ohlone people technology. Segments of the Monterey who survived the Spanish mission system cypress windbreaks that the farmers eventually mixed with the larger culture of planted still survive. Año Nuevo Island As ship traffic increased along the coast in the mid-1800s, the shoreline became recognized as exceptionally dangerous to shipping — particularly the foggy, rock-strewn area between Año Nuevo and Pigeon Point. In 1872, the federal government installed a fog whistle on the island and added a five-story light tower in 1890. An automatic buoy replaced the light tower in 1948, eliminating the need for lighthouse staff. The former keeper’s residence has been maintained in a state of arrested decay since 1948. The State of California acquired Año Nuevo Island and a strip of mainland in 1958. To protect the wildlife that nests and breeds there, Año Nuevo Island is closed to the public. In 1985, 2,980 adjacent acres of coastal mountains from the former Cascade Ranch were added to the park. GEOLOGY The surf-resistant rock that forms Año Nuevo Point is known as the Monterey Formation. Starting as sedimentary clay and silt laid down beneath the sea 12 or 13 million years ago, it has gradually changed into a thinly layered mudstone, common throughout the Coast Range. The Monterey Formation was moved northward by tectonic activity along the San Gregorio Fault Zone, which cuts through the park. Small faults associated with the major fault zone are visible in the cliff face along the park’s south shore. Año Nuevo Island is part of the marine terrace that enters the sea from below the Santa Cruz Mountains. The terrace’s westerly portion is covered by sand dunes that are being driven from north to south by northwesterly winds. This 300- to 350-acre dune field is one of the few remaining active dune fields on the California coast. Here at Año Nuevo, the dunes have been changing character as a result of naturally decreased sand availability. Marine Education Center PLANT LIFE The diverse habitats at Año Nuevo enable various plant species to be successful. Deeprooted willow thickets spring up amid grasses where drifting sand is trapped. The prevalent tree species — Monterey pines, coast redwoods, and Douglas-firs — thrive in this coastal environment. Bushy perennials like mock heather, bush lupine, and lizardtail dot the sand dunes. Sand verbena, beach burr, and such colorful annuals as evening primrose and California poppies provide cover and food for mice, rabbits, insects, and other small life forms. ANIMAL LIFE The Elephant Seals Perhaps the single most compelling attraction for visitors is the large colony of northern elephant seals that assembles here each winter. Named for their large size and their long, pendulous noses, elephant seals were slaughtered wholesale in the 1800s for the oil that could be rendered from their blubber. By 1892, fewer than 200 individual seals existed, living on the remote island of Guadalupe off the coast of Baja California. In 1922 the Mexican government gave protected status to the elephant seals, and the United States followed suit a few years later when the seals began to appear off the southern California coast. Año Nuevo Island’s first elephant seals arrived in 1955; the first pup was born there in 1961. Males hauled onto the mainland in 1965, and the first known mainland birth came ten years later. The number of elephant seals breeding and giving birth on the mainland still grows. Since their protected status began, elephant seals continue to multiply. Their breeding range extends as far north as Point Reyes. The pups then molt their original black fur, which is replaced by a shiny new silver coat. Soon they begin learning to swim in the shallow offshore waters. By the end of April, they have begun to head northward in the Pacific Ocean to forage for food. Elephant seal pup with mother Breeding Season Elephant seals spend most of their lives at sea and come ashore only to molt, mate, and give birth. The first males arrive at Año Nuevo in December. Weighing close to 2½ tons, huge bulls engage in violent battles to establish dominance. The successful bulls do much of the breeding; most of the responsibility falls on the “alpha” bull at the top of the social ladder. In early December, 800- to 1,600-pound females begin to arrive and form “harems” on the beaches. Three to six days later, they give birth to the pups conceived the previous year. One pup is born to each female, nursing for an average of 28 days. Feeding on its mother’s rich milk (up to 55% fat), the pup grows from about 75 pounds at birth to 250-300 pounds in less than a month. Females may mate several times before returning to the ocean, abruptly weaning their pups by deserting them. By mid-March, most of the adult seals are gone, leaving the pups behind. Molting Season Between April and November, elephant seals return to the beaches of Año Nuevo in smaller numbers (based on their age and sex) to molt. This “catastrophic” molt takes approximately 30 days, during which the seal sheds its outer skin layer with fur and whiskers. Other Pinnipeds Pinnipeds are marine mammals with finlike feet or flippers. Año Nuevo is a vital rookery and resting area for more than the largest of the pinnipeds — northern elephant seals. Tawny brown Steller sea lions breed on the rocky outer portions of Año Nuevo Island. Large numbers of dark brown California sea lions often haul ashore, but very few breed on the island. The incessant bark of male sea lions travels for miles. Harbor seals live on the island all year, breeding in April and May. Their heads bob in the surf just off the park’s beaches. On offshore rocks, they are identifiable by the mottled pattern of their coats. Other Marine Life Throughout spring, the telltale 10- to 15foot spouts of California gray whales may be visible as they pass the point on their annual migration between their winter breeding grounds and their summer feeding range in the Bering Sea. Visitors may spot sea otters offshore, diving for food or floating on their backs. Like elephant seals, otters are returning from near-extinction to reoccupy their former range. Sea otter mothers and pups returned to Año Nuevo in the early 1980s — the first sea otters to enter this immediate area in more than a century. Tide pools at Año Nuevo teem with more than 300 species of invertebrates, some quite rare. Common life forms include clams, abalone, limpets, hermit crabs, and anemones. Nutrients from seal and sea lion waste fertilize the lush aquatic plant growth that feed the rockfish and bottom fish offshore. Año Nuevo Island is home to an abandoned lighthouse station, birds, and many pinnipeds. BIRDWATCHER’S DELIGHT American kestrels Black turnstones Black-bellied Brown pelican Brown pelicans Bushtits Cinnamon teals Finches Gulls Grebes Hummingbirds Loons Mallards Marsh wrens Meadowlarks Northern harriers Pintails Plovers Quail Red-tailed hawks Red-winged blackbirds Sanderlings Sandpipers Sparrows Swallows Swifts Terns Thrushes Towhees Turnstones Vireos Warblers Wigeons Willets Wrentits Land Animals Nocturnal bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, weasels, bats, and black-tailed deer thrive here. Coast garter snakes, rubber boas, and western yellow-bellied racers prey on small rodents and insects. Considered one of the rarest and most beautiful snakes in North America, the turquoise, red, and orange San Francisco garter snake inhabits marshy areas and feeds on amphibians. California red-legged frogs, another endangered species, share the wetland habitat with larger, non-native bullfrogs. Although coastal development has greatly diminished red-legged frogs’ numbers, fortunate visitors may spot one. MARINE PROTECTED AREA The coastal waters off the park comprise the Año Nuevo State Marine Reserve, one of 15 that the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) legislatively safeguards along the Central Coast. No living marine resources may be taken. View MPA maps and boundaries at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/ Marine/MPAs. ABOUT YOUR VISIT Seals are here year-round. In spring and summer, elephant seals return to molt. Females, juveniles, sub-adult males, and adult males visit from April to August. Yearling seals haul ashore in the fall. From December 1 to 14, the restricted Natural Preserve area is closed to allow pregnant females undisturbed beach access. Breeding takes place from December through March. From December 15 to March 31, you can see the elephant seals only on one of the regularly scheduled guided walks that minimize disturbance to the animals and their natural habitat. The 2½-hour, MARINE EDUCATION CENTER The historic Steele Brothers Dairy barn is now the park’s accessible Marine Education Center. The educational and interpretive facility and nearby theater comprise 7,480 square feet of exhibit and classroom space with podcasts, webcams, and multi-media demonstrations of Año Nuevo’s rich natural and cultural history. ACCESSIBLE FEATURES The Equal Access Trail, a .27-mile boardwalk, offers views of the elephant seals for visitors who need mobility assistance. A wheelchairaccessible van transports visitors from the parking lot to the Equal Access trailhead. Van tour reservations are required; call (650) 879-2033 from November 1 until March 15. Accessible parking, restrooms, and a picnic area are near the accessible Marine Education Center. Beach wheelchairs are also available to access Cove Beach. NEARBY STATE PARKS • Pigeon Point Light Station SHP 210 Pigeon Point Road, Highway 1 Pescadero 94060 (650) 879-2120 • Big Basin Redwoods SP, 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek 95006 (831) 338-8860 • Butano SP, 1500 Cloverdale Road Pescadero 94060 (650) 879-2040 This park is supported in part through a nonprofit organization. For more information contact: Coastside State Parks Association New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, CA 94060 www.coastsidestateparks.org WARNING: ELEPHANT SEALS ARE DANGEROUS Elephant seals are unpredictable and faster than they appear to be. Even on land, they are extremely mobile for short distances. The head, which is drawn back to the shoulders at rest, can be extended two or three feet for a quick bite, and their large canine teeth can inflict serious wounds. Battles for dominance between bulls are among the bloodiest of any species. Bulls can crush a person with their two- to three-ton weight. STAY AT LEAST 25 FEET AWAY FROM ALL SEALS. Photo courtesy of Frank S. Balthis three-mile walks are conducted by volunteer naturalists. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made as early as October. From April through November, hiking permits are required to enter the restricted areas at Año Nuevo Point and are issued firstcome, first-served at the park. Elephant seal viewing requires a 3 - 4 mile moderate hike over varied terrain, including sand dunes. Driving to see seals is not an option. Sturdy shoes, layered clothing, water, and rain/wind/sun protection are recommended. Visitors requiring mobility assistance are encouraged to make a reservation for an Equal Access Tour. For general information on the elephant seal walks, phone (650) 879-0227. For seal walk reservations, phone (800) 444-4445. PLEASE REMEMBER • Contact the park for current access information for the Natural Preserve area. • All gates are locked at sunset daily. • Año Nuevo Island is closed at all times to public access. • Except for service animals, dogs are not allowed in the park and must not be left inside vehicles in the parking lot. • Harassment or disturbance of wild animals is prohibited by state and federal law. • All natural and cultural features are protected by state law. • Fires of all types are prohibited. 10 00 ’ Cl o ve rd al e B U TA N O R oa d State Park S TAT E PA R K G azo LIGHTHOUSE Ro eek Cr s ad ’ 00 14 to San Francisco PIGEON POINT 40 0’ Año Nuevo 0’ 80 400’ S TAT E H I S T O R I C PA R K AÑO 0’ 40 Lighthouse Station Legend Ol 600’ Wo ma Creek ns Roa Paved Road Unpaved/Service Road 0’ 100 e s zo S TAT E us P R I V AT E P R O P E RT Y e QUIROSTE VALLEY 0’ 40 Bridge CULTURAL Locked Gate PRESERVE Park Building AÑO Cre PRESERVE Restrooms A tk Franklin Point inso N. Whitehouse n Creek Trail ff l ai Tr A N 400 680 (beach access) P R I V AT E San Jose SMR 17 9 Big Basin Redwoods SP 500 150 300 2 0 4 4 6 8 8 10 Miles 12 16 Km Park Entrance 1,000 Feet 1 450 Meters Bea 250 0 AÑO NUEVO S TAT E PA R K Pond s Beach Access Cove Beach Cr e ek k Año Nuevo Bay © 2012 California State Parks (Rev. 2016) Horse Barn Theater Steele Trail C ree New Nuev o Cove Beach Trail Marine Education Center r (Natural Preserve Trailhead) Poin t Tra il a Ye Staging Area o Añ o o Añ ev Nu 1 Table Rock NUEVO Castle Rock SP to Santa Cruz, Monterey 0’ T ra il 0’ 20 Año Nuevo SP AÑO Portola Redwoods SP Butano SP 60 ’ P R O P E RT Y c h a nd du n e s c l ose d t o publi c Pescadero SB Chalks Cascade Ranch 84 Pomponio SB 800’ Creek scad e Ca cad B lu E 280 San Gregorio SB Bean Hollow SB Pigeon Point Light Station SHP e Cree k Trail n C P R O P E RT Y S. Whitehouse At kin Creek Trail so IC O 101 1 75 IF 84 Half Moon Bay 0 PAC 880 Point Montara Light Station Half Moon Bay SB 0 (beach access) 580 Gray Whale Cove SB Pacific Ocean il Tra Pacifica SB Montara SB P R I V AT E 200 ’ Lake Elizabeth (closed to public) uf San Francisco Bay 92 600 ’ f 2 Kilometers Oakland to San Francisco eh o hi t W e us Bl 1.6 Miles 0.8 San Francisco 1 0.5 W h i t e hou s e SMR access) ’ 00 10 Ca NATURAL N U E V O (beach Ranger Station ’ 00 14 80 0’ Cas Picnic Area ek COAST Parking ’ 400 d Road ad NUEVO PA R K Chandler Reservoir (closed to public) Ro a No Public Access Franklin Point Trail Chalks on AÑO S TAT E PA R K Whitehouse Ridge Tr ny Lookout Point BIG BASIN REDWOODS Cree k Ro Accessible Feature W hit eh o 200 ’ 40 0’ Gazos Creek Day-Use Area (beach access) Marine Protected Area 0’ 40 (by guided walk or permit only) 80 P R I V AT E P R O P E RT Y 0’ 80 Restricted Access 0.4 0’ 120 NUEVO Ga Natural Preserve 0 ’ 600 Cr Accessible Trail/Boardwalk 0 d 40 0’ ek 20 0’ Trail: Hike P Roa d Major Road d Gr AÑO NUEVO COAST NATURAL PRESERVE (Restricted Access) ek Cre ee n Oa ks Equal Access Trail Park Entrance n Poi North Point Bight Beach A ño Año Nuevo Point Año Nuevo Island South Point o Nuev t Trai l Staging Area Cove Beach Año Nuevo Bay (closed to public) Lighthouse Station (abandoned) see detail map AÑO NUEVO STATE MARINE RESERVE to Santa Cruz