West of Santa Maria, beach hiking and fishing Essay

The blowing sands that covered the stretch of road leading to tinyGuadalupe Dunes County Park, 12 miles west of Santa Maria, have beencleared and the gate opened after almost two years of closure. Onceagain fishermen, beach hikers, and surfers have easy access to a wildstretch of coast. After the meandering Santa Maria River washed out 800 feet of roadin March 1983, the park closed, giving lawmakers the opportunity tosolve problems with off-road-vehicle traffic in the adjacent dune area,which is privately owned and is a nesting site of the endangered leasttern. Now a guard turns back four-wheel-drive vehicles, motorcycles,and cars with tires wider than 7-3/4 inches.

The park is essentially a paved, 48-space beachside parking lotnear the Santa Maria River estuary. Hours are 8 to 6 daily until March1, 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 a4-mile naturalist-led hike along the beach to Mussel Rock, near thehighest sand dune on the West Coast (480 feet).

Meet at 8:30 at thepark gate at the end of W. Main Street (State 166). Bring binoculars,warm jacket, lunch, and water; rain cancels the hike. For moreinformation, 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 (44cents), self-addressed envelope to Kathleen G. Jones, 2860 Halcyon Rd.,Arroyo Grande 93420.


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