Natural Features & Ecosystems

A photo taken from a tall headland of a long, straight, sandy beach stretching into the distance with the Pacific Ocean on the left.
California's diversity of natural features attracts a variety of plants and animals.

California enjoys one of the most diverse assemblages of land forms, vegetation types, and ecosystems in the world. There is more climatic and topographic variation in California than in any other region of comparable size in the United States. This variation has contributed to a remarkable diversity of natural features and ecosystems found at Point Reyes National Seashore, located within California.

Point Reyes National Seashore is blanketed with subtle natural features nestled over a variety of ecosystems. The overriding natural feature is the presence of the San Andreas Fault, which separates the geologic peninsula from the rest of the California mainland. Two of the area's larger streams flow along the length of the valley formed, in part, by the San Andreas Fault. These, and other smaller streams in the park, along with lakes, ponds, and lagoons provide important habitat for diverse species of life. The remaining sides of the peninsula are intermittently edged by beaches and sand dunes, sea cliffs, and intertidal zones bordering the Pacific Ocean. Encircled by this rich assemblage is a mosaic of ecosystems arranged by factors such as geologic foundation, climate, and exposure. While there are dozens of ways to classify and name the exact type of ecosystem, such as forest or grassland, the broadest and closest category places Point Reyes National Seashore into a Mediterranean Ecosystem.

The Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve represents a highly diverse complex of terrestrial, coastal, and marine environments, including Point Reyes National Seashore. The reserve is complimented by a rich cultural history with lands and waters in Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties.

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  • Two sections of fence that show the 16-foot displacement that occurred during the 1906 Earthquake.

    The San Andreas Fault is the current boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. Point Reyes is on the Pacific Plate.

  • Coniferous trees blanket a valley and ridge as fog rolls in from the left.

    The forests of Point Reyes are determined by many factors, including the geologic formations in which the trees and plants sink their roots.

  • Many purple- and orange-colored sea stars and some sea anemones line a crevice on intertidal rocks.
    Intertidal and Subtidal Zones

    The intertidal zone is where the land submerges under the ocean & the tidal zones begin. It is a fascinating place to explore & appreciate.

  • A small blue lake surrounded by brushy green hills with the ocean visible in the distance.
    Lakes, Ponds, and Lagoons

    Learn about some of the lakes, ponds, and lagoons that may be found at Point Reyes.

  • A blue ocean stretches into the distance beyond a short lighthouse sitting on a rocky headland.
    Pacific Ocean

    The Point Reyes Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean.

  • Green and tan grasses cover a slightly sloped hill adjacent to the ocean.
    Prairies and Grasslands

    The northern coastal prairie is the most diverse type of grassland in North America. Pristine patches of this vegetation grow at Pt. Reyes.

  • A small stream winds its way among dense green vegetation in a forest.
    Rivers and Streams

    On their way to the Pacific ocean, the streams of Point Reyes link the crests of coastal ridges and hills to estuaries and wetlands.

  • Diverse, low-growing vegetation partially covers coastal dunes with the ocean in the background.
    Sand Dunes

    Point Reyes National Seashore preserves some of the last remaining high-quality coastal dune habitat in the United States.

  • Ribbons of open water snake through wetland vegetation.
    Wetlands and Marshes

    Wetlands play an important role in the health of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.


Last updated: January 16, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (e.g., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; fire danger information; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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