Pigeon Point Lighthouse Celebrated!

Every November people from near and far gather at Pigeon Point Light Station State Park to mark the anniversary of the first time—in 1872—its Fresnel Lens was lit to guide mariners. A technological marvel, even by today’s standards, the first order Fresnel Lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Though the lens is now on display in the adjacent Fog Signal Building, the lighthouse remains an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation.

After 143 years of weathering wind, salt water and other harsh elements, the lighthouse is closed for a major rehabilitation project led by CSPF. Phase One, an interim stabilization of the tower by removing the lens and sealing all cracks to prevent water intrusion, has been completed. Drawings for the remaining three phases (upper tower, lower tower, oil house) are pending approval and a series of events to kick off the restoration campaign are in the works.

The lens will not return to the upper tower until repairs are completed, but that didn’t stop the festivities enjoyed by over 1,000 attendees on Saturday. During the day, families took docent-led nature and history walks, children made their own lighthouses while sipping hot chocolate, musicians serenaded the crowds with songs about lighthouses, Beyond the Border food truck served up delicious meals, and everyone stopped by the Fog Signal Building for viewings of the magnificent lens and its prisms of light.

Shortly after sunset, an audience gathered for a slide show of the construction drawings by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) which were projected onto the lighthouse itself. Then a short video entitled “It’s A Long Way to Pigeon Point” (by docents Stuart Nafey and Peter Bohacek) described historic transportation modes used to reach the lighthouse, as well as marine mammals and birds that migrate past the area.

After the two showings, other images were projected onto the spectacular lighthouse screen—including a lava lamp which only audience members of a certain generation could identify. Using the lighthouse as the backdrop for these two viewings was quite a spectacle. The volunteers at Pigeon Point plan to do it again next year, so save the date of November 12, 2016.

Photos by James Zhang

5 Southern California Hikes in State Parks

Southern California state parks are usually associated with breathtaking beaches, but there are many amazing hikes and activities for everyone to enjoy. Here is a list of 5 hikes in Southern California state parks to get started on your exporation. So get out there and hike!

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo by Erica Shalit.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo by Erica Shalit.

1. Broken Hill Trail Loop, Torrey Pines State Reserve

If you are wanting spectacular views of Southern California this trail is for you. Torrey Pines State Reserve is home to the rarest pine tree on the North American continent, the Torrey Pine. Gaze upon Southern California as it looked hundreds of years ago from atop Broken Hill. This 2.5 mile loop consists of two trails, the North and South Broken Hill trails. The best part of this hike is the viewpoint at the middle of the hike. It is an amazing view during sunset hours. This is a fairly easy trail and great for all levels of hikers.

Palomar Mountain State Park. Photo by Julianne Bradford.

Palomar Mountain State Park. Photo by Julianne Bradford.

2. Doane Valley Nature Trail, Palomar Mountain State Park

A variety of hiking trails is available within the park. Some lend themselves to short, leisurely walks and others are suitable for vigorous, all-day hikes. The scenery includes open meadows and thick coniferous or oak forests. Trails are open to foot traffic only. The Doane Valley Nature Trail is very nice in the summer months and is only about a mile long. Along shady Doane Creek, you’ll see creek dogwood, wild strawberry, mountain currant, and Sierra gooseberry. At the park office you can get a leaflet describing different types of trees you will see on the trail.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo by Mimi Kramer .

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo by Mimi Kramer.

3. Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

First-timers can’t miss the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, a 3-mile round-trip flowering with brittlebush, desert lavender, and ocotillo. The trail starts close to the Borrego Palms Campground. The trailhead itself is very clearly marked, and the parking area has plenty of spaces. Make sure you bring plenty of water, because this trail tends to get very hot. The best times for this trail are fall, spring, and winter to beat the heat. The trail leads to the third-largest palm oasis in California, which was the first site sought for a desert state park back in the 1920s. It’s a beautiful, well-watered oasis, tucked away in a rocky V-shaped gorge. If you’re lucky, you may glimpse a bighorn sheep, in a canyon vegetated by California’s only native species of palm. A longer option takes you exploring farther up-canyon.

Red Rock Canyon State Park. Photo by Carol P. Murdock.

Red Rock Canyon State Park. Photo by Carol P. Murdock.

4. Nightmare Gulch Loop, Red Rock Canyon State Park

Nightmare Gulch Loop is a long hike, about 8.8 miles. Rock Canyon State Park attracts many raptors and in order to protect the raptor nesting sites, the gulch is closed to hikers and vehicle travel yearly from February 1 to July 1. When the area is open it is a great trail to take photos on. The trailhead starts a half mile north of the entrance to Red Rock State Park at a small turn out on the east side of the highway. The route goes along ridge tops with panoramic views of the gulch and the Southern Sierra Nevada. This is a relatively easy hike with a small amount of elevation gain and loss. This hike can be very hot during the summer months, so take caution and be prepared.

Mount San Jacinto State Park. Photo by David Herholz.

Mount San Jacinto State Park. Photo by David Herholz.

5. San Jacinto Peak, Mount San Jacinto State Park

For a bit more of a challenge, set your eyes on Mount San Jacinto. At 10,834 ft, it is the highest peak in the California State Park System, and the 2nd highest in Southern California. This is a very difficult hike, but worth it once you reach the top. When you arrive at the parking lot of Valley Station, you’ll have to buy a ticket to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mountain Station. From there you will begin the 11 mile hike to the peak. While the trails here are very well signed, be sure to pay attention because Mount San Jacinto State Park packs a surprising number of trails into its 14,000 square miles. Note that everyone entering the wilderness area for the day or for camping must have a permit in their possession. Day-use wilderness permits are free and are available at the State Park Headquarters in Idyllwild or at the Long Valley Ranger Station. Applications for overnight permits will be accepted up to 8 weeks in advance.

Happy trails!

California State Parks are Great Places to: Achieve Our Goals

This is the first installment in our “State Parks are Great Places to” series.


California state parks have something for everyone. Many parks serve as an extensive outdoor playground for all types of athletes, from runners to bikers, climbers to surfers. State parks are great places to help athletes achieve there goals, whether it is training, racing, or just getting outside to do their sport.

One CSPF member sums up how state parks help him achieve his goals:

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If you are looking for ways to use state parks in your own athletic training, here are some upcoming outdoor events in state parks to get you started:




Skyline to the Sea trail: http://sempervirens.org/get-outdoors/skyline-to-the-sea-trail/



What sports do you do in state parks? Do you have a favorite event that you would add to this list?

New Gardens Revitalize Rio de Los Angeles State Park

©When you think of Los Angeles, “serenity” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The city has a reputation for smoggy skies and bumper-to-bumper traffic, and residents looking for a peaceful outdoor escape may think they need to leave town to find it. But what many locals don’t realize is that natural beauty and state parks can be found within city limits. Rio de Los Angeles is one such state park that offers access to hiking trails, recreation areas, wildlife, and more – and it’s only getting better.


Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Photo Credit: © Margaret Oakley Otto

Located along the Los Angeles River (the “Rio de Los Angeles”) in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles, the site of this state park was once used mainly for the maintenance and repair of railroad cars. Today, the park boasts sports fields, a playground, a recreation building, hiking trails, and places for gathering and taking a breather, like The Artist’s Bench, a tiled seating installation created by local artist Suzanne Siegel and students from Ara­gon Avenue Elementary School. And most recently, Park Stewards including CSPF’s Park Champions volunteers have embarked on the creation of four new gardens that will enhance the beauty of the park and the experiences of its visitors.

Rio de Los Angeles State Park, (c) Marygrace Lopez

The Artist’s Bench at Rio de Los Angeles.

The four gardens include a Sensory Garden, an Edible and Medicinal Garden, a Butterfly Garden, and a Bird Garden.

  • The Sensory Garden will encourage visitors to wander through and enjoy the scents of plants like native bay, mint, sage, and other aromatic species.
  • The Edible and Medicinal Garden will include plant species native to the Los Angeles basin that nourished and healed native peoples for thousands of years.
  • The Butterfly Garden will be planted with a variety of California native milkweed species as well as known host plants for southern California butterfly species.
  • The Bird Garden will be planted with berry and fruit producing shrubs to attract songbirds, and nectary flowering species to attract hummingbirds.

Sage plants before planting in the Sensory Garden. Photo Credit: © Will Taylor, wtphoto.com.

The Sensory Garden was planted in December 2014 by Park Champions volunteers, and the other gardens will begin to take shape over the next two years.

“These native gardens are meant to unite the two goals of having native habitat to support the local ecosystem, and offering community enjoyment and interpretive opportunities to connect with the incredible character of California native plants,” says Margaret Oakley Otto, the Southern California Program Consultant for the Park Champions Program.


Planting the Sensory Garden at a Park Champions volunteer workday. Photo Credit: © Will Taylor, wtphoto.com.

Stop by Rio today to see the progress and enjoy the many activities the park has to offer. And if you would like to join the efforts to improve Rio de Los Angeles State Park, check out the Park Champions volunteer calendar to sign up for upcoming workdays.

story BY CSPF Program Assistant Meredith Alling

Our Heritage, Our Parks: Meet Irma



“My love and deep appreciation for parks comes from the wonderful childhood memories of having a paradise where I could play, dream, run, laugh and explore nature. I want the same ‘paradises’ to always be available, especially to children and youth.”
–Irma Muñoz

Irma Muñoz is a community builder, activist, advocate, and instiller of confidence and hope. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Irma is one of seven sisters. She was brought up in a home with strong family values, an unwavering commitment to education and a deep respect for their Mexican heritage and cultural traditions.

She is the Founder/President of Mujeres de la Tierra, a non-traditional environmental non-profit in Los Angeles.

Mujeres de la Tierra inspires and teaches women and their children to take ownership and leadership of neighborhood issues and challenges. One of the main goals is to identify holistic and practical approaches to solving local environmental issues by balancing efforts to address environmental woes with the needs of family survival.  Mujeres supports the building of healthier and sustainable neighborhoods through public engagement and individual participation.

Irma is an avid supporter and advocate of open space and a state park advocate; inspiring hundreds of park users to take an active role in restoration and beautification efforts. As a member of the Latino Coalition, her advocacy work contributed to the passage of the statewide ban on plastic bags, an accomplishment finally realized after eight long years. She also serves on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Board of Directors, serving as Board Chair in 2013. Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board where she serves as Vice Chair.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Irma was named a “community champion” by the Annenberg Foundation for excellence in leadership in Los Angeles County and honored by Senator Curren Price as a “SheHero” for her role in improving the health of families in Senatorial District 26. In 2011, the California State Parks Foundation named her “Park Hero” in their 2011 Annual Report.

Her work with Mujeres de la Tierra has been featured in Newsweek Earth Day 2009, the November 2008 issue of O, Oprah Magazine and was named in Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Influential Hispanics in October 2008 and La Opinion’s Mujeres Destacadas 2007 community award for leadership.

Irma Muñoz attended El Camino Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

Our Heritage, Our Parks

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month — ¡Celebra!

The California State Parks Foundation would like to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) by recognizing the important role Hispanics have played in our state parks. We will introduce you to several folks here in California who are truly state parks champions! They are just a few of the many others who work hard on behalf of state parks, open spaces and public lands. We salute these champions and their important work to ensure that parks of all types are accessible to everyone in the state. We will be profiling them in the weeks to come.

We would also like to invite you to listen to two fantastic keynote speakers from CSPF’s Hidden Stories Conference: Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Senior Vice President for Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein. The conference, which took place in Los Angeles during last year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, was entitled: Folding Back the Layers of California’s Latino/a History. The Stories beneath the Stories.

¡Parques para todos!

Elizabeth Goldstein
President, CSPF

Patricia Pérez
Board Member, CSPF

End Your Summer in a Great Place

Summer may be drawing to a close, but there are still plenty of fun events and activities taking place at state parks for the next few weeks.

To help inspire your visits, we’ve put together a list of over 150 events and activities taking place in state parks between now and October. Our list includes a variety of experiences — everything from music festivals and theater to guided hikes, historical walking tours, train rides and star parties.

After you attend an event in a state park, submit your photos to our “End Your Summer in A Great Place” Photo Challenge. The challenge is simple: just upload photos from your trips to California’s state parks on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win fun prizes from our online store!

The “End Your Summer in A Great Place” Photo Challenge is part of our ongoing effort to celebrate the 150th anniversary of state parks by reflecting on the many reasons why California’s State Parks are Great Places. Over the past 8 months, we’ve been working to spread the word about the many reasons State Parks are Great Places. We’ve showcased stories and photos submitted by park supporters at the State Capitol during Park Advocacy Day and in Yosemite Valley during the Yosemite Grant Act 150th Anniversary event on June 30.

Visit our Facebook page and upload your state park photos today!

150th Anniversary of California State Parks

2014 marks 150 years since the California state parks system has existed as an entity. To celebrate, the organization has planned a number of events relating to its history and its presence in preserving the natural environment of California. Oroville Mercury-Register reports that one of the key events celebrating the anniversary will be taking place at Lake Oroville to launch its Summer Speakers series. California State Parks has grown to be one of the largest state park systems in the world, with 280 park units, more than 1,600,000 acres, 14,000 campsites, and visitor attendance of some 70 million visitors per year. Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret.) said, “California State Parks has been a leader in the conservation and preservation of our natural and cultural resources, and our mission is to connect the people of California with their parks.”

Humble beginnings

To coincide with the celebrations, DPR has released a fact sheet with a brief history of California’s state parks. The first step towards dedicated conservation areas in the state was taken by President Abraham Lincoln. In June 1864, he signed a bill declaring that Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees be granted to the state of California ‘upon the express condition that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation, and shall be inalienable for all time.’ In 1890, the Marshall Monument was identified as the first historical state park, and by 1928, the Division of Parks had been established to manage the 17 parks and 15 employees that were now open. State parks are responsible for almost one-third of California’s scenic coastline, managing the finest coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. Their workplace consists of nearly 1.4 million acres, with over 280 miles of coastline; 625 miles of lake and river frontage.

California Coastline from Pescadero State Beach ©Lance Kuehne

Continuing celebrations

The celebration preparations began back in December 2013 with the grand opening of the California Statewide Museum Collections Center. The Center “serves as the repository for over 1 million historic objects and artifacts from parks throughout the state.” It takes in 130 years taking in “including historic freight wagons and carriages, Native Californian Indian baskets, textiles, natural history specimens, western memorabilia, architectural features, and works of art.” Other events that have taken place have included the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association’s (AMIA) celebration, coinciding with its own 30th anniversary. AMIA works with Anderson Marsh State Park to promote educational and interpretive activities. Their event included a guided nature walk, “music, refreshments, historical displays and exhibits and guest speakers.” California State Parks offered free admission to veterans, as well as active and reserve military personnel in participating California state parks on Memorial Day.”

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park © Michael Hanrahan

As important national sites, California’s state parks bring in visitors from all over the world. For anybody abroad looking to visit Lake Oroville, Anderson Marsh, or any of California’s other 280 parks, it’s vital that they have the right currency with them in time for their travel. Cards aren’t always accepted at smaller businesses so it’s important to carry an adequate supply of cash to avoid having to miss out on activities or purchases. The Lonely Planet’s web advice regarding California, outlines the costs associated with the state, as well as advising on different options for spending and exchanging money. Visa offers a TravelMoney Card, which is a prepaid card, allowing customers to pay for goods as they would a regular Visa credit card, as well as withdraw money from ATMs in the local currency.

With celebrations commemorating 150 years of state parks set to continue throughout 2014, and an events calendar outlining these available online, it seems like a great year to do some exploring of the Golden State’s natural attractions. The state parks’ anniversary fact sheet notes that their parks contain the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any state agency in the nation, including “underwater preserves, reserves, and parks; redwood, rhododendron, and wildlife reserves; state beaches, recreation areas, wilderness areas, and reservoirs; state historic parks, historic homes, Spanish era adobe buildings, including museums, visitor centers, cultural reserves, and preserves.” With almost 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, California’s state parks really do have something to offer everyone.


Bring a Bit of Nature back into your Weekend

The birds are singing, dried wood littering the forest floor is crunching beneath your feet and there is a glistening lake laid out before you. Getting right back to nature—is there a more memorable adventurous type of weekend out there for families? Certainly not, especially when you consider the amount of freedom that is provided when we step out of the rat race and discover really what nature has to offer. State parks provide a great way to explore the wilderness with ease, and ensure these beautiful areas of our Californian state will always remain that way for generation upon generation to enjoy.

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

Discover Something New

Children are of course forever looking to discover something new, to interpret the world in a different exciting manner by hunting out the adventure. Who can blame them, there is surely a small part of this in every adult as well, which is why visiting state parks can be the basis of a great weekend that has something to offer for the whole family. Discover giants with your children—giant sequoias and coastal redwoods are protected by the state in the parks, and the feeling of awe when walking through these is second to none. In fact 95% of coastal redwood has been logged, which is a grave tragedy. The fact that they will always be persevered in state parks is just another reason to visit on your next vacation. The history of California is prevalent throughout the parks, whether that is seen in the age-old ringing chimes of nature or the Fischer-Hanlon House in Benicia Capitol State Historic, Park, where you will be able to truly experience 19th century upper middle class family life. History is truly prevalent throughout all the state parks. Why not rent a family-sized RV to travel between the state parks to ensure not one inch of the natural beauty here is missed?

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

The Leading Star in Any Trip

There is a wealth of activities on offer in these parks. Get back to basics and look up at the night sky—there are several parks that offer astronomy programs, and even observatories, creating those unforgettable, once in a life time experiences. California is in itself a fabulously diverse state with a range of things to offer whether you like trips by the beach, in the mountains or in the city. Santa Monica Mirror reported that for the Memorial Day Weekend more than 2.6 million Southern Californians were expected to travel more than fifty miles. In a state that is so diverse, though, this relatively small distance can land you in almost a different plant. It would be a massive shame to miss out on the huge array of different state parks on any trip to this varied place. Of course with such a sunny climate, California is a great tourist destination no matter what you are looking for, but to create something really special, take off from the normal tourist routes and travel around some of the beautiful state parks of California.  The great thing about these parks is that they are so accessible and dotted all over the state making it a great experience to incorporate in any vacation, whatever you have in mind.

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

Make a Splash

California’s state parks aren’t just about trekking around and taking in the picturesque sights, there are also a great many number of water based activities to occupy your families’ time on a weekend trip, including power boating on a lake or simply taking part in a leisurely canoe tour. So many of these parks provide the perfect backdrop into a world of escapism. Why not visit Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Parks, where you can get lost in a lava-scarred land only accessible by boat. What kid—or adult for that matter—would not want to explore all that there is on offer here. There is something surely so innate, so peaceful about spending time on the world’s waterways, and California most certainly has its fair share of beautiful spots to visit whilst taking vacation.

The fact of the matter is that California is teeming with a wealth of different experiences, adventures and forms of escapism just waiting to be taken, but for a real trip back into the natural beauty of this state, and to really get a feel of all that is on offer, there really is no greater weekend than that which is built around trips to the fabulously diverse state parks. California is forever changing and modernizing like everywhere else in the world, but the state parks without a doubt provide a solid piece of nature that we must always treasure.