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By the Numbers: Point Reyes National Seashore


There are now hundreds of tule elk like these in Point Reyes National Seashore. Barbara Polk photo.

California's Point Reyes National Seashore is wondrous to behold, but tough to describe. Here are a few statistics that help take the measure of the place.


Recreational visitors in 2009. Attendance peaked at nearly 2.6 million in 1992.


Marijuana plants (43,000 female and 35,000 male) removed from illegal plantations within the park during the first nine months of 2006.


Park acreage, nearly a quarter of which (17,184 acres) is water-covered.


Hours that volunteers have invested in recent years for removing nonnative plant species, monitoring wildlife, providing information to visitors, working at the Morgan Horse Ranch, protecting the resources, maintaining the trails, and performing other services in the park.


Acres of designated and proposed wilderness. The park's official tally of federally designated wilderness has stood at 25,370 acres since 1976. A Congressional mandate to designate additional wilderness acreage at Drakes Estero by 2012 has provoked heated debate because the proposed wilderness area is relatively small, exhibits significant human alteration, and has a commercial oyster farm.


Bird species in the park. That's nearly half of America's avian species! This incredibly diverse park also has 80 species of mammals, 85 species of fish, 29 species of reptiles and amphibians, and thousands of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate species.


Nonnative plant species found in the park. (These include not only a great variety of invasive grasses, flowers, and shrubs, but also trees such as cypress, eucalyptus, and Monterey Pine.) There are also at least 600 native plant species in the park, including more than 50 listed as rare, threatened, or endangered by the federal government, California state government, or California Native Plant Society.

35 tons

Weight of the adult gray whales that can be seen from park overlooks. The whales travel close to shore here as they migrate between the northern waters where they feed and the Baja California lagoons where they spend the winter and birth their calves.

~30 ranches

Private beef and dairy cattle operations that operate in the historic ranch area (the park's pastoral zone) under the terms of leases and related agreements with the National Park Service.

18 feet

Displacement in 1906 of the opposite sides of a picket fence built across the San Andreas Fault. Slippage of the fault during the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 moved the immense mass of the Point Reyes Peninsula at least that distance to the northwest. Visitors walking the park's popular Earthquake Trail see a replica of the original fence.

10 animals

Endangered tule elk translocated to Point Reyes in 1978 from the San Luis Island Wildlife Refuge. There are now approximately 440 tule elk in the park. About 100 are in a free-roaming herd in the Limantour wilderness area and above Drakes Beach. The rest are in a large fenced area of Tomales Point at the northern end of the park.

9 degrees

Difference between the park's average summer temperature (51°F ) and average winter temperature (42°F). Throughout the year, the cold Aleutian Current flowing southward along the coast moderates the temperature of westerly winds from the Pacific. As a result, summers don't get very hot and winters don't get very cold.


Private vehicles allowed to park overnight at Point Reyes without special permission, backcountry campers and certain others excepted. There are no drive-in campgrounds, but the park does have four backcountry (walk-in) campgrounds and some special-use lodging units. The Superintendent's Compendium states that: "All parking areas in the park are closed to visitor vehicle parking from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. with the exception that visitors holding backcountry camping permits may park at established trailheads and visitors staying overnight at the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center, the Point Reyes Hostel, and the Lifeboat Station may park at those locations or at established trailhead parking lots. Any other overnight parking must be approved by the Chief Ranger."

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Are any vehicles allowed to drive on the beaches? I'd like to get a sense of how far out of step Cape Hatteras is, compared to other national seashores.

@George: Certainly not. No driving on any NPS administered beach on the whole west coast.

MRC is right, George. BTW, if you are perchance interested in all of the special rules for Point Reyes National Seashore -- that is, regulations in addition to those spelled out in 36 CFR and applying to all parks -- see the Superintendent's Compendium for Point Reyes National Seashore.

@George: What do you mean..How far out of step Cape Hatteras is? Do you drive on the beaches at Cape Hatteras?

@Joyce: I would not drive on any beach. When I visited Cape Hatteras National Seashore, I saw that beach vehicles dominate the beaches. The National Park Service is writing a new off-road vehicle management plan, which I hope will be an improvement. A consent decree in 2008 adopted temporary restrictions on beach driving to reduce conflicts with birds and sea turtles. For further information, check the conservation groups' web site at: Of course, the beach buggy groups seem to think nobody can enjoy a beach without driving onto it, and they wish the wildlife would go away. They have their own web sites to tell their side of the story.

I don't have the numbers, but elephant seals have recolonized the Peninsula in the last 20 years, and there is now a breeding colony, with pups being born in the Winter.

You're right about the elephant seals, Mike. Between December and April, a breeding colony of elephant seals can be viewed from the Elephant Seal Overlook on the Elephant Seal Overlook Trail near the Chimney Rock parking lot. During weekends and holidays of the elephant seal season, the Overlook is staffed by docents with binoculars, spotting scopes, and a wealth of information to share with visitors.

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