Shipley Nature Center

Shipley Nature Center is an 18-acre ecological sanctuary for native flora and fauna in California. Environmental Education and Community Awareness


The nature center was named after former Huntington Beach Mayor Donald D. Shipley and established in 1974. Dr. Shipley envisioned a place that resembled what California was like 100 years ago.

The Nature Center got overrun with invasive, alien plant species after years of neglect, crowding out more desirable native plants on which local native fauna depends. The ground water was reduced by non-native tamarisk and gigantic reeds. Dead Monterey pines and gigantic reeds posed a fire hazard and had to be removed. The Blackbird Pond was depleted of oxygen, particularly during the summer months.

The restoration technique reconstructed numerous early California habitats so that children could observe what Huntington Beach was like before intensive development wiped out native habitats.

The Friends of Shipley Nature Center and the City of Huntington Beach spearheaded a comprehensive restoration with donations and grants, as well as paid and volunteer labor. The restoration included the removal of invasive, non-native species, the upgrading of the trail system, the installation of a drip irrigation system to improve water conservation, and the planting of 50,000 California native plants.

The repair of a water feature involved the construction of a freshwater stream to provide pond circulation and aeration. The stream will be a tremendous draw for both migrating and local birds. Restoration will considerably improve wildlife habitat value and create more chances for environmental education.

The Center now has 4,000 feet of well-maintained paths that go through oak woodlands, Torrey pines, meadows, and Blackbird Pond, a natural freshwater wetland with mature willows and sycamores. A 1,500-square-foot Interpretive Building within the Nature Center houses displays on local wildlife and ecology.


The main plant group on the 18 acres is Southern Willow Riparian Scrub, which includes:

  • Coastal Sage Scrub
  • Willow Riparian
  • Fresh Water emergent wetland
  • Open water


Coast Live Oaks grow in this forest (Quercus agrifolia). These trees were planted some 40 years ago when Shipley Nature Center was founded. The grove was expanded during our restoration time, and you will now witness several Coast Live Oaks as you go along the trail toward the Redwood Forest.

Evergreen Coast Live Oaks New leaves grow and old ones fall off, so the tree never goes without leaves. In the spring, blossoms appear in the shape of clusters of little tassels, and when pollinated, they develop into acorns. In the autumn, the acorns fall to the ground, providing food for our resident squirrels as well as seedlings to refill the grove. Native Americans who lived in the areas where these trees flourished ate acorns as a mainstay.

Take a look up in the canopy. The tree crowns provide a dense canopy of shade. Take note of the tree structure, a gray superstructure of gnarled limbs and branches that distinguishes the trees.

At the moment, two large Oak trees are lying on their sides, with a portion of their roots exposed. These trees fell at different times over a few years. Wind and our high water table also had a role. Both trees have new growth, a testament to their will to survive and an example of how a forest changes over time. Coast Live Oaks are known to live for more than 250 years.

Orange County Electrician

Next Point of Interest: Bolsa Chica State Beach