Point Reyes 2012 Shuttle Buses for Visitors To Watch Whales Begins

Friday, December 02 2011 16:51   California
The 14th year of offering shuttle bus transportation allowing visitors to Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California easier access to watch migrating gray whales and Northern Elephant seals will begin Dec. 31, 2011.

"Winter is a wonderful time not only to watch the annual Pacific gray whale migration from Alaska to Mexico but also to celebrate the recovering populations of Northern Elephant seals as they return to breed at Point Reyes," said Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon.

gray_whaleLimited parking is available at prime viewing areas such as the Historic Lighthouse and Chimney Rock headlands. Bus service eases congestion in these areas, she said. The shuttle transportation system was identified in the Headlands Management Plan as an important tool to protect the fragile headlands but also allow access for visitors.

Bus service runs only on weekends and holidays in good weather. Ticket sales open at 9 a.m. at the Ken Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach and close at 3 p.m. Children 16 and under are free, adult tickets are $5 per person and Federal Senior and Access pass discounts apply to the purchase.

Sir Francis Drake Highway is closed at South Beach junction when the busses are operating. Road closures begin at 9 a.m. and the road reopens approximately at 5:15 p.m. For more information, please call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 415-464-5100 x2 x5 or visit the park's
Winter Shuttle Bus System page.

California Gray Whales and Elephant Seals

Engaging in the longest migration of any mammal, the California gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) swims 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) each year, spending about one third of its life migrating from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Alaska, to the warm, shallow lagoons of Baja California.

Along the way, these incredible animals can often be seen from the shores of Point Reyes.

After being absent for more than 150 years, elephant seals returned to the sandy Point Reyes Headlands in the early 1970s.

In 1981, the first breeding pair was discovered near Chimney Rock. Since then, researchers have found that the colony is growing at a dramatic annual average rate of 16 percent. Fanning out from their initial secluded spot, the seals have expanded to popular beaches.

From December through March a breeding colony of elephant seals can be observed from Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock, above beautiful Drakes Bay. The males are the first to arrive here, in December, to stake out a claim on the beach. Then pregnant females begin to arrive and soon give birth to a single pup. Subadult and juvenile animals arrive and the colony can number close to one hundred animals.

About Point Reyes National Seashore

From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides and forested ridges, Point Reyes just north of San Francisco offers visitors more than 1,000 species of plants and animals to discover.

Home to several cultures over thousands of years, the seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people. Point Reyes awaits your exploration.

Point Reyes is located approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of San Francisco on Highway 1 along the west coast of California. Travelers may approach the park from the winding scenic Highway 1, either northbound or southbound. Visitors can also reach the park via Sir Francis Drake Boulevard or the Point Reyes/Petaluma Road.

Point Reyes National Seashore was established to preserve and protect wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States.

The park's shuttle buses will run through mid-April 2012. For more information, visit the park's Web site at
www.nps.gov/pore/ .


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