The 36 National Natural Landmarks of California

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest desert state park in the US.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest desert state park in the US.

The United States National Natural Landmarks (NNL) is a program that identifies and encourages the management, conservation, and rehabilitation of natural history in the US. The program identifies the geological and biological features in private and public ownership. The main aim of the program is to encourage and support individual and organization efforts in preserving sites that illustrate the ecological and geological history of the country. The program also seeks to encourage the public to appreciate natural heritage. There are 599 national natural landmarks in the country spread across 48 states, and the territories of Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. Delaware and Louisiana are the only states without a national natural landmark. The federal, state, county, or municipal governments manage about one-half of the landmark sites. One-third is privately owned while the rest is owned and managed by a public-private corporation. A site qualifies as NNL because it contains the remnants of a specific geological, ecological, or biological feature. There are thirty-six National Natural Landmarks in California which include faults, desert parks, and extinct ice age animals and plants.

National Natural Landmarks of California

Elder Creek

Elder Creek is the oldest NNL in California. Elder Creek is a stream of the Sacramento River. It is located in Tehama County. The stream originates from the Mendocino National Forest. It was designated in 1964 as the oldest National Natural Landmark in California. The privately owned site covers an area of 2,905 acres. Elder Creek is among the few undisturbed watersheds in the country. It consists of a forest with Douglas fir, deciduous trees, and broadleaf evergreens.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest NNL in California, alongside being the largest desert state park and the second largest park in the United States. The park occupies 622,810 acres of the Colorado Desert. It was designated an NNL monument in 1974. The park’s habitat is part of the Colorado Desert ecosystem that includes woodlands, and California montane ecoregion. It contains bajadas, rock formation, desert washes, arid landscapes, and colorful badlands. Natural oases and springs support the only native palm trees in California.

Eureka Dunes

The Eureka Dunes is the tallest NNL in California. Eureka Dunes occupies the southern part of Eureka Valley in Inyo County. The dunes cover an area of 4,544 acres. They rise to a height of 680 feet making them the tallest dunes in the great basin. The dunes were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1983. The dunes’ ecosystem is home to unique and protected plant species including the eureka dune grass and the eureka evening primrose.

Designation and Ownership

The Federal government wholly owns ten of the thirty-six NNLs; nine are owned by the state governments, while ten more are private properties. The rest are owned by joint ownership between the three parties. A majority of the sites were designated NNLs between 1964 and 1987, Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is the only park that was designated between 1988 and 2011, while Lake Shasta Caverns was designated in 2012 as the newest NLL.

The 36 National Natural Landmarks of California

1Amboy Crater1973San BernardinoFederal
2American River and Phoenix Park Vernal Pools1976SacramentoCounty/private
3Año Nuevo State Reserve1980San MateoState
4Anza-Borrego Desert1974Imperial, Riverside, San DiegoState
5Audubon Canyon1968MarinPrivate
6Black Chasm Cave1976AmadorPrivate
7Burney Falls1984ShastaState
8Cima volcanic field1973San BernardinoFederal
9Cosumnes River Preserve1976SacramentoPrivate/Federal
10Deep Springs Marsh1975InyoPrivate
11Dixon Vernal Pools1987SolanoPrivate
12Elder Creek1964MendocinoPrivate
13Emerald Bay1968El DoradoState
14Eureka Dunes1983InyoFederal
15Fish Slough Area of Critical Environmental Concern1975Inyo, MonoFederal/state/municipal
16Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes1974San Luis ObispoFederal/state/private)
17Imperial Sand Hills1966ImperialFederal
18Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks2006OrangeState/county/municipal
19Lake Shasta Caverns2012ShastaPrivate
20Miramar Mounds1972San DiegoFederal
21Mitchell Caverns and Winding Stair Cave1975San BernardinoState
22Mt. Diablo State Park1982Contra CostaState
23Mount Shasta1976SiskiyouFederal
24Pixley Vernal Pools1987TularePrivate
25Point Lobos1967MontereyState
26Pygmy Forest at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve1969/1973MendocinoState
27Rainbow Basin1966San BernardinoFederal
28La Brea Tar Pits (Rancho La Brea)1964Los AngelesMunicipal
29San Andreas Fault1965San BenitoPrivate
30San Felipe Creek Area1974Imperial, San DiegoFederal/state
31Sand Ridge Wildflower Preserve1984KernPrivate
32Sharktooth Hill1976KernPrivate
33Tijuana River Estuary1973San DiegoFederal/state/municipal
34Torrey Pines State Reserve1977San DiegoState
35Trona Pinnacles1967San BernardinoFederal
36Turtle Mountain1973San BernardinoFederal

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