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Prowling at Pescadero Marsh south of San Francisco.

AT 640 acres, Pescadero Marsh is one of the largest marshes on the San Mateo coast. Two creeks join and flow through its heart; a salt-water lagoon nourishes one end. It's alive with fresh-water and diminished salt-water plants, anadromous fish, and more than 200 species of birds, including seasonals, migrants, and dozens of year-round residents.

Winter storms brought down tons of silt that threaten to choke the low wetlands, but the state parks department's new plans call for action that should eventually increase tidal action and restore the marsh habitat.

Two new loops are ready for hiking, with a total of five signed trails. To join a free ranger-led walking tour, call (415) 726-6238. Or hike in on your own; from the marsh entrance sign, walk up the hill to an observation deck. Here you can look out over the north section to the hills beyond, and hear marsh wrens chattering in the reeds, song sparrows chirping in the tall grasses.

One varied 2-mile loop, the Sequoia-Audubon Trail, takes you out along Pescadero Creek (once channelized and quite straight here); look across to a eucalyptus grove to see a great blue heron rookery. Farther into the marsh you may find snipe, Virginia rails, black-crowned night herons, and bitterns. The trail cuts back past the lagoon, where you'll see harriers cruising overhead while kingfishers and other diving birds skim the lagoon.

The marsh is across from Pescadero State Beach, 40 miles south of San Francisco on State Highway 1. Park on the east side of the highway at Pescadero Road.
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Date:Jul 1, 1985
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