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McGrath State Beach, Oxnard

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McGrath State Beach, August 2011

This park was one of 70 California State Parks on the closure list due to the state budget cuts.  The park has been saved and is back on the camping reservation system, open for both camping and day use. Note this park is seasonal, opened usually in the spring thru the fall due to river flooding conditions. 

Mc Grath State Beach is located just South of the Santa Clara River mouth in the Ventura and Oxnard area.  This beach campground is surrounded by dunes, meadows, fresh water marsh, salt marsh, riparian habits and sits on the South side of the Santa Clara River Estuary. 

Nine separate ecosystems occur at McGrath State Beach.  This unique habitat is home to over 245 different birds, 14 of which are endangered or listed as special concern along with 6 endangered plant species plus endangered fish and frogs.  Among the endangered list:  Slender-horned Spineflower, Southern Steelhead, Tidewater Goby, Arroyo Toad, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Least Bell's Vireo, Western Snowy Plover and Least Tern.  You will see areas roped off in the dunes during nesting season to protect nests of snowy plovers and least terns, which lay their eggs on the sand dunes.

The campground facilities include picnic tables, fire rings, water spigots, showers (bring quarters), bathrooms with electrical outlets and a campfire center (check out the evening campfire programs).  Nature trails run next to the river, designated as a natural preserve.  Firewood is available for sale onsite.  See the official State Parks McGrath State Beach webpage for more information and reservations.   

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McGrath State Beach Sunset

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Santa Clara River Estuary on McGrath SB

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Santa Clara River Estuary view from the beach

The Beach

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First view of the beach emerging from the trail thru the dunes

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McGrath SB, view up coast toward Ventura

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McGrath Beach, near the estuary


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Campsites #104, #105, #106 (view from the beach trail)

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Campsite #172

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Campsite #103

Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve, Streamside Woodland Trail

The trail head is located at the end of the day use parking lot.  The woodland trail to the right leads inland along the Santa Clara River.  The trail to the left leads along the fresh water marsh, the salt marsh, the beach dunes and the beach.  As previously mentioned, the dunes are roped off in the spring for nesting season.  Endangered Least Terns and Snowy Plovers nest here.  Take the trail to the left once you reach the dunes to get to the beach.  You can walk the beach to the right (North) and connect to Santa Clara Rivermouth Beach, but some wading through the river mouth would be required certain times of the year.  During the summer a sandbar forms across the river mouth providing dry passage, but eventually the river breaks through causing flooding...as a result McGrath is usually closed during the rainy season. 

Also see the McGrath SB Trails page, a "virtual tour" of all the trails leading thru the nine ecosystems found at McGrath.







A few pictures dated 4/30/11 below (click to enlarge)


Marshes along the Santa Clara River seen from the trail to the beach.

Sand dune habitat, McGrath has one of the largest left, about 2 miles of dunes.

The beach! One of the Channel Islands (Anacapa) visible offshore.

A few pics below dated 6/4/11.  The first weekend of June an unusual storm system moved across California.  Rainbows were appearing everywhere. 

Small lagoon and dunes. Not good to walk in, the endangered Western Snowy Plover nests here.

The beach path thru the dunes, the nesting areas are roped off here.

Yet another rainbow on this beautiful beach this day.

Looking up the beach toward Ventura Harbor.

Looking down the beach toward Oxnard.

I counted 11 endangered Western Snowy Plovers and found numerous animal tracks coming from the dunes

Places nearby:
Santa Clara Rivermouth Beach
San Buenaventura State Beach
Ormond Wetlands
Channel Coast State Parks


Save McGrath State Beach page on caopenspace:

McGrath State Beach Trails (nature walk description & pics)

Official park website
(The state parks website says the park is closed but as of 4/17/10 it has been reopened.)

McGrath in the news
"State May Buy Dunes, Wetlands at the Beach", August 2000, latimes
The land was in fact purchased and part could be a future campground expansion and day use area.  Article also mentions the Santa Clara River Parkway project, which would create a 12 mile nature trail along the Santa Clara River from the ocean to the foothills)

McGrath State Beach Natural Resources Management Plan (good info, also describes expanding or moving parts of the campground to the newer property described in the above news article):

Regarding the mention of the 1993 oil spill at McGrath Lake, this document describes the restoration and contains good info on the natural features of McGrath SB http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/980/files/restoration%20plan%20and%20environmental%20assessment.pdf

Santa Clara River info:

Santa Clara River Parkway (project of California Coastal Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy's LA-Ventura Project and Friends of the Santa Clara River.

Description of the Santa Clara River on Wikipedia

Santa Clara River, description of plant & animal life by The Nature Conservancy:

Santa Clara River Estuary Description on ceres.ca.gov:

Environmental concerns, Waste Water Runoff discharge:

Santa Clara River Watershed, studies, reports, management, other info:

Friends of the Santa Clara River: