Santa Margarita River

Conserving a threatened desert lifeline in Southern California

In southern California, WRC has committed to purchase 1,384 acres along five miles of the Santa Margarita River. In a region afflicted by drought, this rare stream is a lifeline for fish and wildlife and cherished by communities throughout the region. Photo by Myles McGuinness.

The Santa Margarita flows through the heart of a region that has more threatened and endangered species than any comparable land area in the Lower 48. Protecting rare sources of water and riparian habitat like the Santa Margarita is key to ensuring the long-term survival of these imperiled species. Photo by Myles McGuinness.

The Santa Margarita is a key focus for the recovery of endangered southern California steelhead. NOAA Fisheries ranks it as a Core 1 stream, the highest priority for steelhead recovery. WRC's conservation of over five miles of the stream in an area where flows are especially healthy, makes this project critical to the success of steelhead recovery. Photo by Pat Clayton.

WRC’s efforts on the Santa Margarita River will protect public access to trails that run along and above this unique southern California stream. Photo by Myles McGuinness.

From its high desert source, the Santa Margarita River gathers a handful of tributaries in the Santa Ana Mountains, pours through Temecula Canyon and meanders through a large floodplain in the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base – just downstream from WRC’s acquisition area – before finally entering the Pacific near Oceanside. Photo by Myles McGuiness.

The Santa Margarita River provides habitat for over 236 species of birds – the highest diversity and density of bird species in the southern California coastal region – including the rare and endangered least Bell’s Vireo, pictured here. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The 27 mile-long Santa Margarita River is protected for most of its length. WRC’s efforts will link two major protected areas—the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve upstream, and Camp Pendleton downstream —, creating an intact habitat corridor and protecting a critical ecological link between the inland high desert, coastal Santa Ana Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Photo by Myles McGuinness.