West of Santa Maria, beach hiking and fishing Essay

The blowing sands that covered the stretch of road leading to tiny
Guadalupe Dunes County Park, 12 miles west of Santa Maria, have been
cleared and the gate opened after almost two years of closure. Once
again fishermen, beach hikers, and surfers have easy access to a wild
stretch of coast.

After the meandering Santa Maria River washed out 800 feet of road
in March 1983, the park closed, giving lawmakers the opportunity to
solve problems with off-road-vehicle traffic in the adjacent dune area,
which is privately owned and is a nesting site of the endangered least
tern. Now a guard turns back four-wheel-drive vehicles, motorcycles,
and cars with tires wider than 7-3/4 inches.

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The park is essentially a paved, 48-space beachside parking lot
near the Santa Maria River estuary. Hours are 8 to 6 daily until March
1, then 6 to 8 until August 1. The beach stretches beyond for miles,
but on it you must stay below the mean high tide line.

Naturalist hikes, brochures. On February 9 and 18, you can join a
4-mile naturalist-led hike along the beach to Mussel Rock, near the
highest sand dune on the West Coast (480 feet). Meet at 8:30 at the
park gate at the end of W. Main Street (State 166). Bring binoculars,
warm jacket, lunch, and water; rain cancels the hike. For more
information, call the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History at (805)
772-2694 or Bill Denneen at 929-3647.

For a bird and plant list and map, send 40 cents and a stamped (44
cents), self-addressed envelope to Kathleen G. Jones, 2860 Halcyon Rd.,
Arroyo Grande 93420.


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