Just west of Eureka, a sandy strip of land extends between Humboldt and Arcata bays and the Pacific Ocean. Its several stages of sand dune formation help create a variety of habitat, good for bird watching of several species. Wind-exposed, salt-sprayed dry soils host sparse vegetation on the outer edge, while low-lying areas further inland collect fresh water in winter months and host lush vegetation that attracts varied bird life.
The 300-acre parcel set aside as the Samoa Dunes Recreation area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as a multiple-use recreation site. Activities besides birdwatching include hiking, surfing, fishing, sightseeing, beachcombing, off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, picnicking and scientific study of rare plants.
Animals you may see here
- Birds: Look out beyond the ocean waves for brown pelicans and Brandt's cormorants. Northern harriers can often be seen as they glide in and out of willow thickets in the small freshwater wetlands. The willow thickets are home to song sparrows and savanna sparrows. The wetlands attract great blue herons and ducks.
-Spring: watch the beach for whimbrels.
-Summer: look to willow thickets for Wilson's warblers and yellow warblers; look to the ocean-bay channel for pigeon guillemots and common murres
-Fall to spring: watch the beach for groups of semipalmated plovers and the bay for fishing double-crested cormorants, and for scaups, buffleheads, common loons and red-throated loons.
-Winter: watch for willets on the beach and for wintering red crossbills in beach pines in the dune areas
Viewing tips for this area
- You'll find very good birdwatching, including many seasonal visits by various birds.
- Be sure to bring binoculars or long-lens camera.
- This is a popular off-highway vehicle (OHV) area - be careful in the 140 acres designated as "open" riding areas.
- This is one of the wettest spots on the Pacific Ocean. Prepare for rapid weather changes by bringing plenty of clothing layers, and carry rain gear on extended hikes.
- A universally-accessible viewing tower is available.
- Be sure to see tips for "Ultimate Wildlife Watching."
How to get here
From U.S. Highway 101 at Arcata, take Highway 255 across the Samoa Bridge. Turn south (left) onto New Navy Base Road. Drive about four miles to parking area.
For more information and links to a location map and a site map, see the Samoa Dunes Recreation page.
Size: About 300 acres.
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management.
For more information, contact: Bureau of Land Management's Arcata Field Office. Also see an overview of the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area.
Site 23 in the California Wildlife Viewing Guide.
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Watchable Wildlife Sites