Gorgeous views of the Ventura River abound in Big Rock Preserve
Acquired between 2009 and 2012, Big Rock Preserve is actually a collection of 4 smaller properties owned by the Conservancy, plus 3 adjoining properties we manage. The name Big Rock comes from a swimming hole on the property, that, according to several longtime Ventura residents, at one time had a large boulder nearby. Though the boulder is no longer present, the water still is.
Big Rock is one of the only places between the estuary and Matilija Canyon that has year-round water. This is due to the particular geology of the area, where the bedrock is very close to the Earth's surface. We have seen endangered steelhead trout (Onchyrinchus mykiss) at this preserve, as well as western pond turtles, herons, bobcats, and lots of other wildlife.
Spring time brings new life each year to the preserve
Years worth of work has gone into removing large amounts of invasive species from the river banks. Removal of giant reed, aka Arundo (Arundo donax), began in October in 2015 and after one year more than 24 acres of this non-native plant had been removed! Because such large areas of the river habitat was now open, dedicated volunteers and Ventura Hillsides Conservancy staff planted over 500 native trees and shrubs to restore this threatened riparian ecosystem. Several beautiful areas of the river are accessible by trail, as well, and the public is welcome to come visit this preserve from dawn to dusk everyday.
Comparison of Big Rock Preserve before and after arundo (seen on left in bright green) removal
Map and Directions
Big Rock Preserve is located just south of Foster Park along the Ojai-Ventura Bike Trail. We recommend that visitors park along Casitas Vista Rd underneath the HWY 33 overpass, and walk south next to the bike path until they see our trail head marker (across from the mural on the retaining wall). The Preserve is open from dawn until dusk every day of the year, except during hazardous weather and high water events in the Ventura River. Dogs, camping, and motorized vehicles are not allowed.