“sand and sun!”
Formerly Pismo Dunes SVRA, this sand dune complex is geologically unique and also provides an impressive playground for off-highway enthusiasts from throughout the United States. One of several OHV areas administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Oceano Dunes also offers visitors other recreational activities such as swimming, surfing, surf fishing, camping, and hiking. The staff at Oceano Dunes wishes you an enjoyable and safe stay. SAND DUNES The Oceano sand dune area is recognized by scientists, conservationists, government agencies, and the public as the finest, most extensive coastal dunes remaining in California. Most of the material that forms these dunes has been carried down to the ocean by various rivers and creeks, deposited here by ocean currents, and then shaped by the wind into the dunes that we see today. The prevailing winds that blow in from the ocean push sand particles up into wave-like crests that run north-south. On the west or windward side the slope is gentle. On the east or leeward side the slope is quite steep. Sand grains, as they are blown over the dune crest tend to accumulate high on the leeward slope; then, periodically thin tongues of sand slide down. For this reason the leeward slope is called a "slipface." PAST INHABITANTS Indian and Indian settlements were noticed by the early Spanish maritime explorers who sailed up the California coast, but the first European explorers to actually travel through the dunes area were members of Don Gaspar de Portola's overland expedition of 1769. In September of that year, just after crossing the Santa Maria River, Portola's men killed "un oso flaco" — a skinny bear. The lake at the southern end of the park takes its name from this incident. During the 1930s and 40s, the dunes were the home of a group of free thinking people including mystics, nudists, artists, writers, and hermits who identified themselves collectively as the "Dunites." Among other activities, the group published a magazine, which they called The Dune Forum. The Dunites believed that Oceano Dunes was one of the centers of creative energy in California. Seek out the solitude of the dunes and perhaps you too, will feel these creative forces that the Dunites talked about. VEGETATION AND WILDLIFE The Oceano Dunes area is home to a surprisingly wide range of plant and animal life. Those who take the time to explore will see wildflowers, the tracks of countless small mammals and insects, a variety of small birds at the water's edge, and hawks, owls, pelicans, or gulls flying overhead. Many kinds of shorebirds can be found on the beach, while other small birds such as the Audubon warbler, or the long-billed marsh wren, as well as red-tailed hawks and American kestrels are often sighted among the sand dunes. Both the threatened snowy plover and the endangered California least tern nest within the SVRA. During the March 1 - September 30 breeding season, small fenced enclosures are constructed around the nests to protect these birds and their offspring from the surrounding recreational use. With ongoing support from OHVers, this nesting program has been a huge success. Most of the wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses that can be found on the dunes are fragile and easily destroyed. Plants that are native to the area include the arroyo willow, California sagebrush, sand verbena, and bush lupine. European beach grass is an introduced species, brought in around the turn of the century to stabilize the dunes. Rare plants that may be seen here include surf thistle and giant coreopsis. PISMO CLAMS Pismo clam populations fluctuate dramatically due to a variety of natural influences. A fragile and valuable resource, Pismo clams may be taken under the following regulations: Clammers must have a fishing license and an accurate (rigid) measuring device in possession. Only Pismo clams at least 4 1/2" in length may be possessed. Undersized Pismo clams must be immediately reburied in the area where dug. Bag limit is 10 Pismo clams. Hours of clamming are 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. CAMPING AND FACILITIES Camping is allowed south of Post 2 on the beach and in the open dune area. Vault toilets and chemical toilets are provided, and water-delivery and holding-tank pump-out services are available on the beach. Campsite reservation information can be obtained by calling 1-800-444-7275. Campsites are available by reservation year-round and can be made from 48 hours up to six months in advance. Reservations are highly recommended (especially for holiday periods). High tides, heavy rains, and blowing sand determine whether or not you can drive down the beach without getting stuck. Access to the OHV and camping area may be restricted periodically by Arroyo Grande Creek which is subject to water releases at Lopez Dam and increased flow during winter storms. Beach camping is recommended for 4- wheel drive vehicles only. A dump station, located on Le Sage Drive, 1/10 miles North of Grand Ave. on Hwy 1, is available to campers. THE OHV AREA Post 2 is one mile south on the beach from Pier Avenue and marks the beginning of the OHV area. All OHVs must be transported to this point before off-loading. Fenced and signed areas are closed to vehicular use either because the property beyond is private or because the area contains sensitive plant and animal life.
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Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
- Sun - Sat: 7:00 am - 11:00 pm
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