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The Carrizo Plain

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Carrizo Plain

The Carrizo Plain is the largest intact native grassland remnant of the vast San Joaquin Valley grassland and one of the most biodiverse  and productive ecosystems in California – home to 34 endangered or threatened species.  A true serengeti – “endless plain” – the Carrizo is a large enclosed plain 50 miles long and up to 15 miles across, in southeastern San Luis Obispo County. The Plain contains the Carrizo Plain National Monument, including Painted Rock, a sandstone alcove adorned with Chumash and Yokut pictographs and rock art dating from 2000 B.C. and which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Soda Lake is a predominant feature of the southern Plain if Soda Lake, a 3,000-acre alkaline lake in the center of the plain.

The plain extends northwest from the town of Maricopa, following the San Andreas Fault. Bordering the plain to the northeast is the Temblor Range, on the other side of which is the California Central Valley. Bordering the plain to the southwest is the Caliente Range.   At 5,106 ft, Caliente Mountain, southwest of the plain, stands as the highest point in San Luis Obispo County. The Plain sits at a 2,200 feet elevation, a high plain semi-arid climate.   

But in addition to its  stunning San Andreas Fault-punctuated geography, giant alkali lake, popular Painted Rock, and the Plain’s dazzling spring wildflower display, the Plain is unique in being home to a teeming and stunning diversity of wildlife, including 34 endangered and threatened species, ranging from the re-introduced Tule Elk and pronghorn antelope -  North America's fastest animal on land, to California condors soaring overhead, and to San Joaquin kit foxes, giant kangaroo rats, and blunt-nosed leopard lizards burrowing underground. The  Plain is one of the last undeveloped remnants of the southern San Joaquin Valley ecosystem and is critical for the long-term conservation of this dwindling ecosystem, linking these lands to other high-value habitat areas like the Los Padres National Forest, the Salinas Valley, the Cuyama Valley, and the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in western Kern County.


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