SoCal locals know that Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, which is found in the south part of the Santa Ana Mountains, southwest of Riverside County close to the city of Murrieta, is really a hidden treasure that gives a amazing insight into history and the area’s ecosystems. Consisting of nine-thousand acres, this Reserve protects a variety of unique ecosystems such as Engelmann oak woodlands, chaparral, bunchgrass prairie, riparian wetlands, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pools as well as more than two-hundred species of native birds and forty-nine endangered, threatened or rare animal and plant species, including mule deer, mountain lions, badgers, bobcats, western pond turtles, white-tailed kites and fairy shrimp.
Everybody’s favorite spot for a short hike during the day at the Reserve is the Moreno and Machado Adobes, which are both oldest standing structures in Riverside County, that go as far back to 1846. They once served as bunkhouses for cowboys. These interesting historical buildings, shaded by a very old tree (400 years old!) and separated by a beautiful unique picnic area, provide a unique opportunity to experience Riverside County’s rich history.
The Santa Rosa Plateau, at an average elevation of 2,000 feet, can be found on the the southern area of end of the Santa Ana Mountains in southwestern Riverside County, Cal. It’s interesting to know that ancient oak woodlands, rare bunchgrass prairie and endangered vernal pool wetlands are a few of the six distinct habitat types that are known to have made this location their residence located less than 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
The Plateau’s gentle local weather made the place ideal environment for folks, beginning thousands of years ago with all the coming of Native Americans. Ancestors of the local American Indians, known today as the Luiseno, harvested and hunted the many plants and animals that are still found on the land today. This hunting and gathering way of life came to an end on the Plateau with the establishment of the missions.
The Santa Rosa Plateau is home to several local vegetation communities and also environments , including purple needlegrass prairie (Nassella pulchra), California oak woodland Engelmann Oaks Quercus engelmannii), montane chaparral coastal sage scrub , plus vernal pools , which are usually increasingly scarce in urbanized Southern California The Engelmann oak used to be prevalent through the western U.S. Now the farthest north they are found is Pasadena. The Reserve has the only protected, reproducing Engelmanns in the states.
All of the the ~ 7,500-acre Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is really a relatively undisturbed area of oak woodland, chaparral, and also natural grassland habitat. Efforts to preserve the plateau could begin to provide a corridor for movements of deer and mountain lion. Creeks draining the plateau contain deep holes, which hold water throughout the summer months and provide an important water source for wildlife.
Check out Tenaja Falls here. It is another popular location people visit when they are in Murrieta, CA.
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