Dawson Los Monos Canyon Reserve Reserve


Dawson-Los Monos Canyon Reserve sits along the now perennial Agua Hedionda Creek in Vista, California and contains habitats such as Southern riparian woodland, coast live oak woodland, inland sage scrub, mixed and chamise chaparral, and mixed grassland of native bunchgrasses and introduced annuals.

  • Administering Campus: University of California, San Diego
  • Established: 1965
  • Location: Western foothills of San Diego County; within the cities of Carlsbad and Vista; 30 mi north of San Diego.
  • Size: 95 ha (234 acres) owned by UC; 93 ha (230 acres) total habitat area
  • Elevation Range: 67 to 179 m (220 to 587 ft)
  • Latitude: 33° 08' 30" N
  • Longitude: 117° 15' 20" W
  • USGS Maps: San Luis Rey 7.5', San Marcos 7.5', Oceanside 15'
  • Average Precipitation: 21 cm (8 in) per year
  • Average Temperatures: September max: 23°C (73°F); January min: 7°C (45°F)
  • • Facilities: Trailer with internet/lab/classroom/living space on site; two weather stations .
  • • Databases: Aerial and historic photo archive; species lists for vascular plants, birds, mammals; reserve-based publications since 1995; preliminary archaeological survey report.
  • Personnel: Academic coordinator on campus. Reserve steward adjacent.
Map & Directions

View Dawson-Los Monos Canyon Reserve in a larger map
From Interstate 5:
  1. Drive about 20 minutes east on Palomar Airport Road
  2. Turn left (north) on South Melrose Drive and follow directions below
From Interstate 15:
  1. Exit west onto I-78
  2. Exit west on Sycamore
  3. Turn right (north) on South Melrose Drive and follow directions below
For Researchers and Individuals:

Turn left on Dawson Drive (first left after Sycamore). Follow Dawson Drive for 200 yards to the security gate. At this point you will need the access code. You are crossing private property from here to the last gate at the reserve entrance. Follow the paved road down to the end of the cul-de-sac. The entrance to the reserve is the gate (unmarked) on your right at the end of the cul-de-sac. Park here if directed to do so or continue through the hooked gate in the fence to your right, along the dirt road. At the corner of the fencelines, enter the reserve through the gate with the combination lock. Close all gates and leave locked as you found them.

For Groups:

Turn left on Shadowridge Drive. Turn left on Antigua Drive; this brings you into Buena Vista Park. Park in the spaces at the far end of the parking lot. Walk along the paved road across the dam at the lower end of the pond; turn left and walk along the dirt road, keeping the eucalyptus on your left. At the end of the eucalyptus, find a gate in the fence on your right (You will need the combination to the lock). Once inside, stay close to the fence, then follow the path along the bottom of the hill to the creek, or up the hill to Mt. Hinton. Warning: there are poison oak and spiny Adolphia bushes in several places, and the paths are sometimes not very clear.


Volunteers gather to analyze water quality in Agua Hedionda Creek.

Twice a year in the spring and the fall, NRS staff, community, and school volunteers get together at the Dawson Reserve and along multiple other sites along Agua Hedionda Creek to examine the water quality by measuring water chemistry, invertebrate sampling, stream velocity, and physical habitat.


Weather stations are present at the reserve and data is available online.

You will find two weather stations on the Dawson Reserve: one in the meadow (shown) and one up on a ridge. These stations continuously collect data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and atmospheric pressure. The data are stored in a database accessible online to anyone by clicking here.


A honey bee foraging for pollen

In spite of Colony Collapse Disorder occuring throughout the United States, the bees love the Dawson Reserve! They have moved in under the research trailer on five separate occasions and have been removed successfully each time. If you are interested in research on bees, we can help you set up hive boxes.


Students at work analyzing samples collected from the field.

The research trailer is available for small classes and overnight researcher use. Telephone, wireless internet, full kitchen, and bunkbeds (sleeps up to 3)