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Credit 1 Pam Starr
2 Alyn Robert Brereton
3 Julie MacKinnon
4 Linda Pittman
5 Parham Pourahmad
6 Larry Whiting
7 Randall Finley
Area: 165,000 Acres
Lat: 36.246218 -121.780343
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Top Banner Photo Credits
Pam Starr
Alyn Robert Brereton
Julie MacKinnon
Linda Pittman
Parham Pourahmad
Larry Whiting
Randall Finley
Big Sur Coast/Ventana Wilderness - Site # 32
Big Sur's coastline is marked by wave-sculpted blowholes and sea stacks populated by Brandt's cormorants, black oystercatchers, and other birds. Year-round sightings of California Condors can be had as well due to an ongoing reintroduction effort. Scores of shorebirds feed on the beaches. In the spring and summer, endangered Smith's blue butterflies inhabit buckwheat on the coastal bluffs. From parking overlooks, watch nearshore waters for wintering loons and scoters and resident harbor seals, California sea lions, and southern sea otters. Northern elephant seals and California gray whales will be farther out. Several coast overlooks are bordered by the 165,000-acre Ventana Wilderness, where wildlife is abundant, including marbled murrelets, spotted owls, and endangered birds of prey.
RegionalRegional - worth visiting if you are already in the area. They may be located farther from populated areas or with more limited wildlife species.

Background: The Ventana Wildlife Society's Discovery Center is located in Andrew Molera State Park, a gateway to wildlife viewing in Big Sur, California. 300+ wildlife species.

The Habitat: Coastal Redwoods, Oak Woodland, Mixed Pine, Beaches and Maritime Chaparral. Topography of the Ventana Wilderness is characterized by steep-sided, sharp-crested ridges separating V-shaped youthful valleys. Most streams fall rapidly through narrow, vertical-walled canyons flowing on bedrock or a veneer of boulders. Waterfalls, deep pools and thermal springs are found along major streams. Elevations range from 600 feet, where the Big Sur River leaves the Wilderness, to about 5,750 feet at the Wilderness boundary circumventing Junipero Serra Peak. Marked vegetation changes occur within the Wilderness.

The Experience: Many people from around the world come to Big Sur to see the endangered California Condor, which arguably is the best place on earth to find these rare birds. Seeing a condor in flight with its' 10-foot wings is truly awe inspiring.

Wildlife and Where to Find It: Start and/or plan your visit to Big Sur at the Ventana Wildlife Society's Discovery Center. If interested in a condor tour but is not available, you can go to Mile Marker 37 which is one mile north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This is a good place to look for condors soaring along the ridge or beach. Be sure and check out the waterfall on the ocean side of the highway.

Viewing Tips: More than 200 bird species. Marine birds, shorebirds, and brown pelicans are seen year-round; best viewing in winter. Look for waterfowl in winter. Moderate probability of seeing birds of prey, marine mammals, deer, and small mammals year-round; peregrine falcons is spring and summer. High probability of seeing songbirds in spring and summer. Watch for gray whales from December to April. Marbled murrelets and spotted owls nest in the redwoods. Enter Ventana Wilderness at Big Sur Station.

Site Notes: Many other trails above the Big Sure are great for backpacking experience. Because of Big Sur River, best riparian habitat on the Central Coast and therefore a major stopover for migrating songbirds. Vagrants come through that are found out of their normal range. One of Audubon Society's IBA (Important Bird Area).

Nearby Viewing Sites: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge

Festivals & Events: Monterey Bay Birding Festival
Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

Visitor Information: Big Sur Chamber of Commerce - (831) 667-2100 - http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org
Viewing Site Hours of Operation are:
Staff On-site: No
Open: Saturday and Sunday plus special arrangements
Hours: 10am to 4pm
Year Round: Yes

Road Information:   Paved.  Gravel.  Dirt. 
Road Hazards: ROAD CLOSURES: Winter storm damage to Highway One has made it difficult to access the few open trail heads in the Ventana region.
 Number of Parking Spaces: 0
Parking Fee: No
Proximity to viewing area:Parking in various locations
 Pull-Through Parking: No
Parking Notes: Limited parking at Discovery Center and paid parking within and more availability at Andrew Molera State Park.

How to Get There: Drive 26 miles south of Carmel on Highway One to Andrew Molera State Park. This the first park coming into Big Sur Village area -- the gateway to the area.

Contact Information
Managing Agency: USDA Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
Agency Site URL: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=10974
Physical Address:6755 Hollister Avenue, Suite 150
Goleta, CA 93117
Agency 2:19045 Portola Drive, Ste F1
Salinas, CA 93908
Manager Phone: Contact Us:by Email
Site Phone:(831) 455-9514
County: Monterey
Addition Website:  http://www.ventanaws.org