Welsome to California's Coastal Prairies : A project of the Sonoma Marin  Coastal Grasslands Working Group

Picture yourself hiking through grassland so old that some of the grasses and wildflowers growing around you have their origins in the Pliocene (2.4 to 5.4 million years ago). Then, imagine traveling back in time to just over 10,000 years ago and you see great herds of elk (Cervus canadensis) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) grazing alongside zebra-like horses (Equus pacificus and E. occidentalis) and huge Columbian mammoths (Mammuthus columbi). Off in the distance you see mammoths, mastodon, and bison (Bison antiques) rub their massive bodies against huge stony outcrops and wallow on the ground creating deep muddy swales. You are in a California’s coastal prairie grassland.

Today, only remnants of the original prairie remain: their rich soils plowed for crops, their nutritious grasses and forbs, prime pasturage for livestock, have been damaged by overgrazing, and their ocean views and staggering beauty are coveted by homebuilders and developers. California’s coastal prairie remnants still contain nearly twice as many species as other North American grasslands placing them among the most diverse as well as the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

California's coastal prairies

The concept for this website was born from the realization that, despite an avid interest and appreciation of natural landscapes, many nature lovers have little knowledge or appreciation of the rich and exciting world of California’s coastal prairies, “the old growth at our feet.”

This website targets beginners and experts, land managers, private land owners, educators, students, and researchers seeking information to enhance their understanding of coastal prairies. We have endeavored to provide information in an accessible format that is easily extractable for persons with limited time (like most of us). The information we provide focuses on coastal prairie information from central and northern California, but will be of use to any audience curious about grasslands.

This website is made possible with funding from California State Coastal Conservancy, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, UC Natural Reserve System, and the UC Davis Office of Research. Additional Information