Northern California Science Writers Association

NEW DATE: Camping and wildflower walk, McLaughlin Natural Reserve

  • Saturday, May 01, 2021
  • 12:00 PM
  • Sunday, May 02, 2021
  • 1:00 PM
  • McLaughlin Natural Reserve, 26775 Morgan Valley Road Lower Lake, CA 95457
  • 14


  • NCSWA Members

Registration is closed


It’s spring, and the grasslands of northern California are a riot of colorful wildflowers. Among the best places to appreciate native blooms in the region is McLaughlin Natural Reserve. Part of the UC Natural Reserve System, the 1,150-acres reserve is known for its serpentinite outcroppings, which host plants not found in more typical sedimentary soils.

Reserve staff have labored for more than a decade to eliminate invasive grasses in meadows with serpentinite soils. Goldfields, larkspur, checkerbloom, tufted poppies, and other wildflowers carpet these grasslands in a rainbow of colors. The sight provides a taste of what California’s grasslands looked like before the arrival of Europeans. 

Consider emerging from your pandemic pod to join other NCSWANs for a campout at McLaughlin on the evening of Saturday, April 24, followed by a guided wildflower hike on Sunday morning. Since half the reserve burned in last year’s wildfires, we’re likely to encounter some rarer botanical finds. Those who prefer not to camp can still join the hike Sunday morning. Native plant aficionados won’t want to miss this outing.


The drive-up campground is surrounded by trees and very rustic. There are porta-potties but no running water, though the reserve will supply some potable water in a jug. Due to pandemic restrictions, only those with a serious need (i.e., an encounter with poison oak) will be permitted to use the field station showers. Campers must bring their own cooking equipment, such as camp stoves, pots, and fuel, as well as their own tent, sleeping bag, etc. County burn regulations will likely permit campfires, so pack some kindling and fixings for s’mores.

Wildflower Hike

At 9:30 SHARP Sunday morning, we’ll meet reserve director Cathy Koehler to explore some of the reserve’s most botanically interesting areas. These could include a seep, serpentine soil outcroppings, and the manicured wildflower meadows. Bring sturdy shoes for a three- to four-mile hike, plus a hat, sunscreen, and layers. Driving may be required to reach some sites; carpooling to those locations would be ideal but completely voluntary.


McLaughlin Natural Reserve is located between Lake Berryessa and Clear Lake along Morgan Valley Road. Travel from Berkeley takes about 2 hours.

Other details

All visitors will be required to sign a University of California liability waiver to camp or hike on the reserve. Internet service is spotty and unreliable. Also, please bring a mask just in case.

More information

Bringing back the wildflowers, UC Natural Reserve System

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