Año Nuevo State Reserve

Año Nuevo State Reserve is a California wildlife reserve located in San Mateo County.

Fifty-five miles (90 km) south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, a low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean.

The reserve contains a diversity of plant communities, including old growth forest freshwater marsh, red alder riparian forest and knobcone pine forest. Its four perennial streams support steelhead and coho salmon, and its wetlands are habitat to the rare San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog. Cultural resources include the remnants of a prehistoric Native American village site and a number of structures from the nineteenth century Cascade Ranch. In conjunction with adjacent and nearby public lands, the unit permits the protection of important regional ecological corridors.

Today, the point remains much as Sebastián Vizcaíno saw it from his passing ship in 1603 — lonely, undeveloped, wild.


The Quroste Ohlone Native Americans were the first people known to inhabit the Año Nuevo area. After Mission Santa Cruz was founded in 1791, the Quroste population plunged due to the various diseases that the Spanish had brought with them.

The Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed by the point on January 3, 1603. His diarist and chaplain of the expedition, Father Antonio de la Ascensión, named it Punta de Año Nuevo (New Year's Point) for the day on which they sighted it in 1603. They had recently stopped in Monterey and had passed Año Nuevo while heading north.

After the mid-1800s, developments occurred, including the development of Año Nuevo Island and agriculture in the surrounding region. Once home to a large population of northern elephant seals, hunters greatly reduced the seal population by overhunting the species. Since the mid-1900s, the seal population has had a rebound and multiplied greatly. Elephant seals can be seen today on the wildlife reserve.

Pinniped colonies

Elephant seals, sea lions, sea otters, and other marine mammals come ashore to rest, mate, and give birth in the sand dunes or on the beaches and offshore islands. It is a unique and unforgettable natural spectacle that hundreds of thousands of people come to witness each year.

Año Nuevo State Reserve is the site of one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal (another is at Piedras Blancas -- 100 miles south near the town of Cambria and the San Simeon approach to Hearst Castle), and the interpretive program has attracted increasing interest every winter for the past 20+ years. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are urged to get their reservations early. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes.

During the breeding season, mid-December through late March, daily access to the reserve is available via guided walks only. Most of the adult seals are gone by mid-March, leaving behind the weaned pups who remain through April. The elephant seals return to Año Nuevo's beaches during the spring (females) and summer (males) months to molt and can be observed during this time through a permit system. Reservations for a guided walk during the breeding season are available at 800-444-4445.

Facilities and opportunities

A Visitor Center features natural history exhibits and a bookstore offering educational items such as books, postcards and posters. Restrooms, drinking water and picnic tables are available near the Visitor Center only. Food and beverages are not sold at the reserve, although drinking water is available.

Adjacent visitor attractions

Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, Butano State Park and numerous other parks and beaches are within five miles of Año Nuevo.

ee also

* Año Nuevo Island
* Marine Mammal Center

External links


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