Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve

Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve / Photo by Lobsang Wangdu

Set in the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Big Sur coast, the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve encompasses several miles of rugged ridges, which flank the Pacific Ocean and descend to a rocky shoreline. From there, the reserve extends approximately one mile offshore into the Big Creek State Marine Reserve.

Extremes in topographic and vegetative diversity at this site range from kelp forests and flat and rocky ocean-bottom habitats reaching 100 meters in depth to multiple upland habitats: coastal scrub, redwood forest, coastal grasslands, oak woodlands, and pine-oak forest and woodlands. The reserve also protects perennial streams and the lower portions of a remote, pristine watershed, which supports a significant run of southern steelhead trout. Big Creek flows strongly year round, even during drought years, and its different forks have unique mineralogical regimes.

The region’s active tectonic history has produced a wealth of rock formations, complex geological faults, and dozens of springs, some of which are warm. Part of the California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve Cluster under the United Nations Scientific, Educational, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve is protected by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Big Sur Skiff Fishing Survey

Cooperative project involving local fishermen provides data on status of kelp forest fishery and fish populations.

Water Quality Monitoring

Periodic monitoring of Big Creek, including bacterial counts, stream insects, and other parameters.

Selected Research

  • Reducing the spread of sudden oak death
  • Prehistoric subsistence patterns and central coast archaeology.
  • Long-term change in intertidal and subtidal communities.
  • Biological diversity and ecology of Lepidoptera, including fire succession.
  • Effects of European honey bee on native social bees.
  • Ecology of speciation in Timema walking sticks.
  • Marine fish populations within and adjacent to marine reserve.
  • Baseline studies on genetics, behavior, and ecology of southern steelhead trout.
  • Landscape-scale modeling and surveying of plant-climate interactions.
  • Deep crustal geology of central California.

Special Research of National Significance

  • PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans): Large-scale marine science research program that focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific coast and involves collaborating scientists from four universities.

Mark Readdie, Director
Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
58801 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
Phone: 831-667-2543
Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve website

Big Sur Coast, Monterey County, 80 km (50 mi.) south of Monterey; two-hour drive from Santa Cruz campus.

Three campgrounds; visitor cabin/lab for ten at Whale Point; small lab/library; 21 km (13 mi.) of trails; 16 km (10 mi.) of dirt roads; limited parking; beach access for small boats onto marine reserve.

The reserve bibliography includes citations of journal articles, books, theses, art, and other works published about or based on activities conducted at the reserve.

Plant List
On-site geographic information system (GIS); teaching collections; published surveys; computer text files for plants, animals, cultural/archaeological surveys; weather data; stream monitoring and marine fish monitoring; regional bibliographies.

Resident director, two on-site stewards.

1,752 hectares (4,328 acres); additional 2,239 hectares (5,528 acres) accessible by use agreement

0 to 1,067 m (0 to 3,500 ft.) Top of watershed at Cone Peak: 1,571 m (5,155 ft.)

62 cm (25 in.) at coast; 102 cm (40 in.) along ridges; higher on upper peaks

Lower elevations from 0 to 30 m (0 to 100 ft.):
January 5.5 – 15.8 ºC (42 – 60 ºF)
August 10.9 – 20.9 ºC (52 – 70 ºF)
Higher elevations above 610 m (2,000 ft.):January 6.0 – 14.1 ºC (43 – 57 ºF)
July 18.4 – 29.4 ºC (65 – 85 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data

Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
At bigcreek CEC students
Doris Duke Conservation Scholars
Students in the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program explored the natural history of Big Sur while staying at the NRS’s Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve. There, they developed conservation research projects as part of their training in field research and conservation leadership. Image: Abe Borker
Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve