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Los Padres National Forest
IUCN Category VI (Managed Resource Protected Area)

View into the Los Padres back country
Location California
Nearest city Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and San Luis Obispo [1]
Coordinates 34°40′00″N 119°45′04″W / 34.6666667°N 119.75111°W / 34.6666667; -119.75111Coordinates: 34°40′00″N 119°45′04″W / 34.6666667°N 119.75111°W / 34.6666667; -119.75111
Area 1,900,000 acres (7,700 km2)
Established December, 1936
Governing body U.S. Forest Service

Los Padres National Forest is a forest located in southern and central California, which includes most of the mountainous land along the California coast from Ventura to Monterey, extending inland. Elevations range from sea level to 8,831 feet (2,692 m).

Contents

Geography

The forest is approximately 1,950,000 acres (7890 km²) in area, of which 1,762,400 acres (7,132.18 km²) or about 88% are public lands; the rest are privately owned inholdings.

The forest is divided between two noncontiguous areas. The northern division is within Monterey County and includes the beautiful Big Sur Coast and scenic interior areas. This is a very popular area for hiking, with 323 miles (520 km) of hiking trails and 11 campgrounds (ranging from very rugged to suitable for RVs).[2] This division also contains the Ventana Wilderness, home to the California Condor.

The "main division" of the forest includes lands within San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern Counties, with a small extension into Los Angeles County in the Pyramid Lake area, between Castaic and Gorman. Mountain ranges within the Los Padres include the Santa Lucia Mountains, La Panza Range, Caliente Range (a small part), Sierra Madre Mountains, San Rafael Mountains, Santa Ynez Mountains, and Topatopa Mountains; the highest parts of the forest are not within named mountain ranges, but are adjacent to the western San Emigdio Mountains and include Mount Pinos, Cerro Noroeste, and Reyes Peak. The forest is also adjacent to the Angeles National Forest, which is in Los Angeles County in Southern California and is nearby Carrizo Plain National Monument in eastern San Luis Obispo County. Forest headquarters are located in Goleta, California. There are local ranger district offices in Frazier Park, King City, Ojai, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria.[3]

Many rivers in Southern and Central California have their points of origin within the Los Padres National Forest, including the Carmel, Salinas, Cuyama, Sisquoc, Santa Ynez, Sespe, Ventura, and Piru.

Several wilderness areas have been set aside within the Los Padres National Forest, including the San Rafael Wilderness, the first primitive area to be included in the U.S. wilderness system after the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Another large wilderness created in the 1970s was the Ventana Wilderness in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

More recent wilderness areas created in the Los Padres include:

  • Garcia Wilderness (14,100 acres (57 km2) in the Lucia District)
  • Santa Lucia Wilderness (20,412 acres (83 km2) in the Lucia District, in the Santa Lucia Mountains)
  • Machesna Mountain Wilderness (19,880 acres (80 km2), in the La Panza Range in San Luis Obispo County)
  • Silver Peak Wilderness (31,555 acres (128 km2), in the Monterey District)
  • Dick Smith Wilderness (64,800 acres (262 km2) in the Santa Barbara Ranger District)
  • Chumash Wilderness (38,150 acres (154 km2) in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District, just west of Mount Pinos)
  • Sespe Wilderness (219,700 acres (889 km2), in both the Ojai and Mt. Pinos Ranger Districts)
  • Matilija Wilderness (29,600 acres (120 km2) in the Ojai Ranger District)

Wildlife and vegetation

Trees in the Sespe Wilderness

Many threatened and endangered species live within the Forest. Probably most famous among them is the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). The American Peregrine Falcon is also entirely dependent on the Forest for its survival. The California Mule Deer may be the most common large mammal. Bighorn sheep inhabit the Sespe Creek region of the forest. American Black Bears browse on grasses, Berries, and carrion. Coyotes thrive everywhere in the forest.[1]

Many vegetation types are represented in the Los Padres, including chaparral, the common ground cover of most coastal ranges in California below about 5,000 feet (1500 m), and coniferous forests, which can be found in abundance in the Ventana Wilderness as well as the region around Mount Pinos in the northeastern portion of the Forest.

Researchers estimate the extent of old growth in the forest is 18,900 acres (76 km2). It consists largely of Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) forests, although old-growth Coast Redwood (Sequoia Sempervirens), Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii), and White Fir (Abies concolor) are also found there.[4 ] In 2008, scientist J. Michael Fay published a map of old growth redwoods in and around Big Sur as a result of his transect of the entire redwood range.[5]

Use restrictions

Los Padres exhibits an extreme risk of forest fires; in 1965, a truck driven by country singer Johnny Cash caught fire, and burned several hundred acres in Ventura county. Because of this risk, there are many restrictions on building fires in Los Padres National Forest. Some portions of the forest are closed entirely to public entry during the fire season (including the entire San Rafael Wilderness). Normally the fire season extends from June 1 each year until the time of the first autumn rains, which is usually in mid-November.

A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking in most locations of the Los Padres National Forest, as well as other National Forests in Southern California, and may be obtained from local merchants, visitor centers, or online. It is not required in the Monterey Ranger District (Ventana Wilderness and Silver Peak Wilderness).

History

Los Padres was named Santa Barbara National Forest until December 3, 1936, and was assembled from a number of smaller National Forests, including:[6]

See also

References

External links

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