From the shores of San Pablo Bay to the heights of San Pedro Mountain, China Camp State Park teems with life. China Camp provides essential habitat to a huge array of plants and animals, including federally endangered and threatened species. Bring binoculars, a guidebook, and your patience, and you’ll likely be richly rewarded by what you discover.
China Camp is home to 26 species of mammals, 140 bird species, 44 species of fish, and 15 types of reptiles and amphibians. Some species, like black-tailed deer and nonnative American turkeys, are easy to find. Try Back Ranch and Miwok Meadows. Coyotes often hang out along roadsides, often in harm’s way. (NOTE: It is against the law to intentionally feed coyotes or any wild animals in the park.) Other species are tougher to spy, including two species endangered by development and destruction of the region’s tidal wetlands. Ridgway’s rail (formerly known as California clapper rail), is a brownish, nearly flightless shorebird, about the size of a skinny chicken. Look for it at dusk in the serpentine tidal channels near Turtle Back Hill, probing the mud for food. In summer, its distinctive mating call sounds a bit like human clapping. Another endangered, tough-to spot species is the tiny salt marsh harvest mouse (pictured above). This cute-as-a-bug nocturnal rodent, about the size of a baby’s fist, has the rare ability to drink salt water. For more information on China Camp’s wildlife, visit our Gallery.
Whether it’s a hilltop crowned with snow-white milkmaids in winter, deep blue Douglas irises in spring, bright yellow mule ears in summer, or rust and orange sticky monkeyflowers in late summer, China Camp offers up a rainbow of wildflowers throughout the year. Beautiful, yes, but also essential sources of food for the park’s diverse wildlife. Native Coast Miwok once depended on the region’s flowering plants too, using them as sources of food and medicine. For more on the park’s flowering plants, visit our Gallery.