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Pepperwood Preserve

Pepperwood Preserve

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At 3,200 acres, Pepperwood Preserve — located northeast of Santa Rosa at the southern end of the North Coast Range — is a vital sanctuary for hundreds of plant and animal species, as well as rare and diverse habitat. It’s considered a biodiversity crossroads, home to species that represent the state’s coastal, interior, and northern and southern climates.

“What I find so fascinating about Pepperwood,” said Tom Greco, Pepperwood communications assistant, “is the incredible diversity of life you can see in such a short period of time. You might find red-bellied newts or even a Pacific giant salamander in our redwood forest, spot some black-tailed deer in an oak woodland, then watch a northern harrier or white-tailed kite soaring above the grasslands — all on an hour long hike.”

Pepperwood isn’t just a beautiful place: It’s one of the largest scientific preserves in Northern California, involved in conservation, research, and education programs that help advance science-based conservation of ecosystems in Sonoma County and beyond. It frequently serves as a venue for university and college research projects and collaborates with organizations such as the California Academy of Sciences, Bay Area Open Space Council, and the California Native Plant Society.

Although the preserve isn’t open for unsupervised public visitation and recreation, it encourages people to sign up for guided hikes, classes, lectures, and other gatherings — many of them free.

“Our preserve perfectly captures the beautiful landscapes and incredibly rich array of plant and animal life that make Sonoma County such a special place,” Greco said. “Visitors really connect with nature here. It’s hard to look upon the beautiful rolling hills and oak woodlands without thinking about how important it is to protect these lands for future generations.”

He added that the range of classes is broad. “We take an inter-disciplinary approach. Some people are more interested in the environment through art, while others care more about the technical aspects. By being inclusive we hope to capture the spirit of conservation.”

Here’s a look at just a few events for 2013:

  • March 9, Public Hike. Join this free general introduction to the natural history and land management of Pepperwood Preserve, a moderate four- to five-mile hike with an elevation loss/gain of about 750 feet. Participants should be in good health and able to hike over hilly terrain. Advance registration required. Free. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Families welcome. Learn more.


  • March 10, The Secret World of Newts. Join herpetologist/wildlife biologist Dave Cook for an early spring study of newts, one of the most docile amphibians commonly found in ponds, creeks and surrounding woodlands. But did you know they are highly poisonous to would-be predators? Pepperwood Preserve hosts all the newt species that are found in northern California. This class includes information on the life history, identification and local habitats of newts. $25/person. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Learn more.


  • March 16, Skies of Spring Over Pepperwood. The crescent moon and the majestic planet Jupiter will provide dazzling sights for this stargazing event while the bright, glittering stars of the Orion constellation highlight the heavens. Bing Quock of the California Academy of Sciences and Ron Dammann of the Fremont Peak Observatory Association will be your guides as you gaze through the Hume Observatory telescopes at the life-cycles of stars and the deep-sky wonders visible in the Spring sky. This evening session begins at sunset with an introductory presentation at the Dwight Center and continues at the Hume Observatory. $10/person. 7:30-10:30p.m. Learn more.


  • March 30, Wildflowers and other botanical delights. Discover the radiant beauty of Pepperwood’s exceptional wildflower displays with Steve Barnhart, retired SRJC Botanist and Academic Director of Pepperwood. Common wildflowers, trees and shrubs will be identified and their ecological adaptations to meadow, chaparral and forest habitats will be discussed. This is an excellent introduction to Pepperwood’s “producers” which provide the essential habitat and food for wildlife. $25/person. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Learn more.


What you neeed to know:

  • Plan ahead: Registration is usually required, even for free events. Once the limit for an event is reached, registration is closed. 
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