Cultural and Natural History


Cultural History
The Ohlone Indians were the original inhabitants of the canyon that now holds Loch Lomond Recreation Area. Of the Ohlone, the local group was referred to as the Zayante. They had enough acorns, fish, and small game to live a peaceful, easy life. Temascals (saunas), songs, and games were the rule, while fighting and thievery the exception. The Spanish and mission life brought an end to the Ohlones in the 1800s.

The land was then owned by a succession of wealthy families, among them was Addison Newell, the man after whom the creek feeding the reservoir was named. The City of Santa Cruz purchased the land and developed the reservoir in the late 1950s. The Loch Lomond Recreation Area opened in 1963.


Natural History
Like most of the San Lorenzo Valley, the land around Newell Creek was logged heavily in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The forest is in the process of re-establishing itself on the young, steep slopes of marine sedimentary rock common to the California coast. The area has a number of plants and animals common to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Redwood Forest Habitat
Loch Lomond Recreation Area is dominated by coast redwoods, the tallest species of tree in the world. The trees found here are relatively young, most less than 100 years old. Its brownish, stringy bark is fire resistant. Some show scars from a large fire that burned the area in 1959. Douglas Fir are interspersed within the forest, often reaching impressive size. Douglas Fir cones form a pattern that, with some imagination, look as they contain mice hiding with its tails hanging out. The Redwood forest also includes pockets of tanbark oak - with its large acorns; madrone - with its red peeling bark; and live oak - with its small prickly leaves.

Sword fern, bracken fern, and coast wood fern are found under the forest canopy along with redwood sorrel and two-eyed violets. Wild blackberry, honeysuckle, and vetch provide food for the animals in sunny areas. Beware of poison oak found throughout the forest. It contains a toxic oil that causes skin irritation.

Huckleberry forms thick stands in the coves along the shoreline. Wild Lilac, with its hearty smelling flowers, lines the trails and service roads where sun is plentiful. French Broom, an invading non-native plant, competes with native plants in disturbed areas.


Loch Lomond Recreation Area is operated as a natural reserve. Observe the diversity of animals, but please do not take any animals home with you (except fish, of course). Do not feed animals; they should eat only natural foods. Feeding wild animals jeopardizes both animal and visitor safety.

Mule deer, gray squirrels, chipmunks, and brush rabbits are seen during the day. Raccoons and gray foxes can be observed occasionally at dawn or dusk, while skunks, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions are shy and active mostly at night. There are no longer bears living in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Garter, king, and gopher snakes are common, as are rattlesnakes. An occasional ringneck, racer, or rubber boa may also be seen. Fence lizards, skinks, and alligator lizards dart about in the sun while newts, tree frogs, bull frogs, and pond turtles relax near the lake in the shade.

A short film on Western Pond Turtle Conservation in Santa Cruz County (including Loch Lomond!) can be found here.


Loch Lomond Recreation Area's combination of aquatic and forest habitat is unique along this section of Pacific Coastline. It is home to osprey, a white hawk that you may see soaring above the lake hunting for fish. Cormorants and great blue herons are also year-round residents and can be seen sunning themselves or fishing along the shore. Every year groups of migratory birds such as grebes, ducks, and coots stop in for a visit.

Listen closely as you stand on the shore, and you may hear the rattling call of a kingfisher as it flies from one perch to another. Back in the forest you may hear the laughing call of the acorn woodpecker resounding from the top of a dead redwood tree. Keep your eyes peeled, and you may catch a glimpse of a northern flicker, it's bright orange wings flashing through the trees.

Many small birds converge in the vegetation around the Recreation Area to feed together in small flocks. The dark-eyed junco, with its black hood, is common among these flocks. Groups of the chestnut-backed chickadee, with their melodic call (tseek-adee-dee) can be heard moving about the forest canopy. Finally, what day in the redwood forest would be complete without a visit from the steller's jay, with its pretty blue plumage and raucous alarm call?