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Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve

The Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SMER), established in 1962, provides protected sites for research and education of southern California ecosystems. The reserve lies on the Riverside/San Diego county line between Temecula and Fallbrook. The 4344-acre reserve encompasses a 5-mile reach of the Santa Margarita River, the longest protected coastal river in southern California and a variety of agricultural and upland habitats. The reserve maintains classrooms and laboratories, and databases.

Research at SMER has produced many scientific and/or professional journal articles. Please see SMER Bibliography.

Access to the reserve is by permission only.  All visitors to the reserve must print out and complete the SMER Vehicle Permit and display it on the vehicle dashboard at all times. All visitors must also contact Pablo Bryant 619-507-0944, at least 2 days prior to arriving at the reserve.

Location: San Diego and Riverside counties on the upper Santa Margarita River; 5 mi northeast of Fallbrook and 5 mi southwest of Temecula; 50 mi north of San Diego. Click here for driving directions.
Year established: 1962
Collaborators: Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish and Game, and The Nature Conservancy.
Size: 1,790 ha (4422 ac)
Elevation range: 150-700 m (500 to 2300 ft)
Watershed and Topographic Features: Santa Margarita River Watershed; encompasses Temecula Gorge, a 5-mi canyon formed by the Santa Margarita River as it courses through the southern Santa Ana Mountains.
Vegetation: Sycamore, cottonwood, and willow forests are part of a 30-mile protected riparian corridor. Coast live oak occurs along ephemeral drainages. Upland areas support coastal sage scrub and southern mixed chaparral. Native grasslands occur in small isolated patches. Orange, avocado and eucalyptus groves.
Facilities: Dormitories, kitchens, labs, offices and classrooms are available for researchers and classes. Educational facility (Philip Miller Facilities) has four bedrooms with 14 beds and additional camping space for up to 40 people. Research facility has four bedrooms with 12 beds.
Equipment: Wireless sensor network providing access to 60% of the reserve’s habitats, high-speed internet access, GPS, basic hand tools and field measuring devices.
Databases: Extensive GIS database including detailed vegetation maps and aerial photography, species lists, plant and animal collections, real-time meteorological stations (1994-present), RAWS (2000-present), and hydrology stations (2001-present), historic data sets, monitoring network for bird point-counts, vegetation (releves), and photomonitoring.

Habitat Connectivity


Maps and GIS