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Wedged between the hum of traffic on Highway 101 and the crashing waves of the Pacific

Ocean in Carpinteria is a seemingly magical world. At first glance, it looks like a swathe of

grassland and shrubs stretching to the beach. But a closer look reveals an intricate

tapestry of life. Fiddler crabs scuttle on a muddy riverbank. A green heron, hiding behind

a veil of reeds, stabs the water with its long, sharp beak, and the shadows of striped mullet

dart and dance in the dark, brackish waters below. This is the Carpinteria Salt Marsh

Reserve (CSMR). Less than 20 years ago, part of this salt marsh was a field full of trash.

About 22 miles up the coast, in Goleta’s Coal Oil Point Reserve, nature continues its

delicate dance. Dolphins leap from the sea, diving and splashing in the wind-whipped

waves off Sands Beach. Overhead, a V-shaped squadron of pelicans soar on the

salty breeze, and in the soft ripples of the beach where the dunes are born,

a western snowy plover scampers across the sand revealing a clutch of speckled eggs,

once an almost impossible sight to see here.

By Karen Hastings • Art by Hank Pitcher & Nicole Strasburg

Nicole Strasburg © 2017

Taking A Closer Look

Remnants of California’s Wild Coast