The University of California's Reserve System is a little-known network of natural areas representing most of the important ecosystems of the state that includes 39 areas totaling 756,000 acres. One of the most recent and smallest of these reserves is Younger Lagoon. In 1974, this undeveloped tidal wetlands and adjoining cove and beach area was gifted to the university by the Younger family, which farmed the surrounding bluff for over a century. While not pristine or unaffected by the farming that still continues on its perimeter, Younger Lagoon is one of the last relatively intact coastal lagoons on the central California coast, and it is home to over 100 resident and migratory bird species.
The only public access to the reserve is through guided walks offered by the Seymour Marine Discovery Center located nearby. The tours are only offered a few times per month, and reservations should be made in advance, though there is no charge other than the normal admission fee to the center. Tours are limited to about 12 people and involve climbing down wet and sandy trails and steps that can be a bit steep.
Passing through the locked gate, the first stop is a viewing shelter overlooking the lagoon. Many birds are usually seen from this vantage point. Leaving the shelter, the trail winds along the bluff and down to the beach. The docents provide interesting facts about the natural history of the lagoon, the effects of agricultural runoff on the water quality, and the types of plants and animals found here. The beach is a wonderful example of the eroding limestone coves of the Santa Cruz area.The total distance covered on the walk is about a half mile, and seeing the exhibits and marine life at the Seymour Center is very worthwhile if time permits.