Monarch Grove, Pismo State Beach/ Monarch migrations

Monarch Grove

The world famous Pismo Monarch Butterfly Grove attracts 80,000 annual visitors to watch tens of thousands of Monarch Butterflies overwinter in the trees surrounding the grove from November to March. Butterflies cluster together and fill the air on sunny winter days. It is truly a place of wonder and renewal. Docents give two free talks everyday during the season at 11 and 2. The Butterfly Trailer offers books and information on the butterflies, butterfly clothing, and many other items. It is a great place for teachers and those seeking unique gifts.

Camping is available at Pismo State Beach Campground and Oceano Campground. Please consider buying your firewood from our camphosts. Sales of firewood fund education and interpretation in our local parks. For more information visit the State Parks site here or the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce butterfly site here.

Monarch Butterfly

Pismo State Beach

Located in the Pismo State Beach - Oceano Campground, the Nature Center links visitors to the plants, animals and cultural history in this State Park. Interactive, hands on exhibits on birds, animals, Monarch butterflies, the fresh water lagoon, native plants, and Chumash culture make learning fun for all ages. There are also many mounts of local animals on display and a collection of video presentations on local natural history.

Docents trained in interpretation are on site to answer your questions. Several docent led walks start from the Nature Center and other locations throughout the park. Check the current Adventures with Nature schedule.

Special programs are also given for campers, Road Scholar groups, scout groups, garden clubs, service clubs, senior citizens and other organizations. School program docents offer interpretive programs on Monarch butterflies, fresh water lagoon life, turtles & tortoises and Native American Indian culture for teachers and students.


Pismo Nature Center is now closed.  The construction of the new OSVRA Visitor's Center is slated to start in April.  Docents and State Park Interpreters are still leading walks, school groups and programs.  Please refer to the AWN schedule.


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At any time of year, the variety of habitats at Pismo State Beach translates into a great diversity of birds. The freshwater lagoon adjacent to the Oceano campground is encircled by the one mile Guiton Trail, providing good views of water and riparian inhabitants. The trail is a pleasant walk through a willow woodland which local birders know as a great place to find migrating warblers in spring and fall, especially in the months of September and October. This riparian habitat also provides good birding year round. The mild climate attracts many over wintering birds and the breeding season attracts others, in addition to the year round resident species. The trees in the campground itself are another place to search for those migrating birds, especially the vagrant warblers.

Other habitats are the dune areas, the beach and the ocean. Shorebirds which nest in the far north come to forage along the beaches during the winter. The diminutive snowy plover, which nest along these shores, might be found sheltering in a hollow in the sand or feeding at the shore during the breeding months. These birds and their nest sites are protected by State Park personnel. If nests are found, they are fenced off from disturbance.

There's always a chance one might spot a streaking peregrine falcon on the hunt along the beach. They nest on local bluffs not far away. Searching the ocean might provide views of a few more species, perhaps a line of brown pelicans "surfing" the waves. In summer, seemingly endless streams of sooty and other shearwaters may sometimes be seen offshore, stopping to feed in whirling masses when gulls and pelicans and even an occasional whale join in the feast.

A birding checklist is available at the Pismo Nature Center, along with natural history exhibits, and docents to help you enjoy the park.

California Native Plants Can Add Color and Beauty To Your Landscape While Benefiting Wildlife--

A wide variety of native plants are here for you to enjoy and consider using in your garden. In the last ten years, we have planted approximately 160 species that are native to San Luis Obispo County. Trees, such as the western sycamore, white alder, coast live oak, and California bay may be seen on a stroll through the park. Colorful shrubs such as California lilac, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, toyon and purple sage are but a few examples. Herbaceous plants are numerous and bright in the spring and summer. Dune Indian paintbrush, striking blue sticky phacelia, coastal golden yarrow, fragrant pearly everlasting and the bright yellow wallflower are but samples of what can be found.

Trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grouped, in our Walk Through Garden, to represent our five coastal habitats: dunes, riparian, coastal scrub, woodlands and chaparral. There are several other native plant gardens in the park. Surrounding the Nature Center at the Oceano campground and at the entrances to the campgrounds in Pismo State Beach are plantings of native species that are to be found growing naturally somewhere in San Luis Obispo County. These plantings are an ongoing effort to replace trees and shrubs that have succumbed to old age or disease. The non-native and extremely invasive ice plant is being removed; after which, native plant seeds sprout abundantly.

Walk Through Garden
Between the two sections of Oceano campground is a "walk through" garden area of easy paths that wind their way through more San Luis Obispo County native plants, many of which are identified with markers. At the entrance is a map displaying the garden with a list of the plants. (Lists are also available in the Nature Center, as well as books with plant photos and comments.) There are benches to rest and enjoy the blooms, butterflies, and birds, and from which to view a raft in the lagoon -- often host to basking turtles or a cormorant in its wing-drying pose.

Dunes Interpretive Garden
Adjacent to the Walk Through Garden is a Dune Interpretive Garden. It has been planted with only those plants found in the local Sate Park dunes. Many of these are labeled to help with identification. A walk along the lovely Grand Dune Trail in the park will give the nature lover a chance to see some of these plants in their native setting.

Chumash Interpretive Demonstration Garden
This garden contains about 50 plants that were used by our local native Americans. Over the 10,000 years of Native American culture, uses of native plants were many and varied. They did not plant gardens but used what was available. The Chumash were hunters and gatherers. Various researchers have compiled lists that describe what they feel were the Chumash uses of these plants.

Directions: The gardens are located in the Pismo State Beach - Oceano Campground. From the town of Pismo Beach, travel south 2 miles on Hwy. 1 to Pier Avenue, then go west 2 blocks.

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Docent Led Walks
Interpretive walks cover native plants and their habitats, their uses by the Chumash and early settlers, as well as modern uses, their value to wildlife, inter-relationships between plants, animals and insects, interesting characteristics and folklore. The walks begin in the spring and continue through the fall. Areas of Existing Walks and Talks:

• Dry Sandy Beaches Pioneer plants, shore birds, insects
• Foredunes Dune geology, native plants
• Back Dunes Native plants, microhabitats
• Chumash Middens Cultural history, early naturalists
• Dunite Cabin Sites Cultural history
• Open Sand Sheets Pioneer plants, dune geology
• High Dunes Artistic beauty, dune geology
•Oceano Campground Contrast native & non-native plants,
• Native Plant Garden SLO County native plants
•Oceano Lagoon Riparian habitat, plants & animals

Nature Center also offers exhibits on local animals, and a variety of scheduled presentations.

Check the Adventures with Nature schedule in this website to read about this month's docent led walks.

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