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MacKerricher State Park: Northern Section Laguna Point, Lake Cleone, Ten Mile Beach
By Jim Havlena

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This section covers the north half of MacKerricher State Park and includes about 5 miles of Highway 1. To enter the state park, turn west at MM 64.90 of State Highway 1 (about 4 miles north of downtown Fort Bragg) onto a two-lane paved road. The ranger kiosk is here, plus a visitor center that is open daily from 9 A.M to 3 P.M. There are three campgrounds at this location, which are often full during the busy summer months.

Continue past the ranger kiosk for about 400 feet and turn left (west) onto Mill Creek Road. Drive about 0.5 mile to the paved parking area for the 30-acre Lake Cleone. Restrooms are located here. The lake is good for wintering ducks; Osprey and Wood Duck have bred here. The 1.1-mile trail surrounding the lake may offer sightings of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker, Black Phoebe, Hutton’s Vireo, Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Marsh and Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Wrentit, Spotted Towhee, and Purple Finch. In addition, Red Crossbill and Northern Pygmy-Owl have been seen along this trail, which is good for migrants (such as Hermit Warbler). The trail starts at the north end of the parking area.

The Laguna Point parking area is located 0.3 miles west of the Lake Cleone parking area, where a 0.3-mile boardwalk includes several viewing platforms of the rocky shoreline. Reliable sightings in Fall and Winter are Rock Sandpipers, Surfbirds, Black Oystercatcher, plus Black and Ruddy Turnstones. Scoping the near ocean for alcids can be done along this walk. Rizzo’s dolphins are occasionally seen here, and harbor seals frequently bask on the offshore rocks. Exit by using Mill Creek Road back to Highway 1 and then turn left (north).

At MM 65.16, turn left (west) onto Ward Avenue and drive 0.8 miles to an unpaved parking area. This is a good location to scope the ocean. In fall, winter, and spring, you may see scoters (including Black Scoters), Red-necked Grebes, and occasionally alcids. Access the beach through the tunnel under the Haul Road or by walking down the Ward Avenue horse ramp. The beach face from Ward Avenue 3.75 miles north to the mouth of Ten Mile River is part of the California Coastal Trail. This beach is part of the Inglenook Fen-Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve. Old maps still show the haul road (from logging days) through the dunes, but that road was removed in 2013 as part of the restoration of the preserve. The preserve is a biological community that contains terrestrial, wetland, and freshwater ecosystems. It is the last remaining coastal fen in the state. Since the beach and dunes north of Ward Avenue are a natural preserve, dogs are not allowed—even on leash. Ten Mile Beach has Snowy Plovers and other shorebirds. At its widest point, the dunes extend 0.75 mile from the beach to Highway 1 (no access). Return to Highway 1 on Ward Avenue, and turn left (north).

At Ward Avenue and Highway 1, drive north about 4.3 miles to the Ten Mile River Bridge. This bridge was replaced by the state of California in 2011. A paved parking lot is immediately south of the bridge on the west side of the highway. From here, you can view the overlook of Ten Mile River or walk across the bridge on the pedestrian access. Currently, hiking access to the beach from the parking lot is by an unimproved privately-owned trail. We will post updates when we learn more. Willows east of the bridge and south of the river can be good for migrants. Check the river for Common Merganser, Long-tailed Duck (in winter), shore birds and Osprey. Purple Martins have nested under the old bridge along with Cliff Swallows.

California State Parks - MacKerricher

A List of Mendocino County Coastal Birds (PDF)