Oso Flaco Lake and the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes
In 1923, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments was filmed in the Nipomo Dunes and the sets were later buried beneath the sand; more recently, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was shot in the dunes. Picnic tables and benches alongside an accessible trail offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the rare coastal lake as well as abundant birds and wildlife. A boardwalk crosses the lake, then travels through dunes, which support more than 1,000 species of plants and animals.
Visitor center: Located in a restored 1910 Craftsman-style bungalow, three miles south of Oso Flaco Lake in the town of Guadalupe. On the wheelchair-accessible first floor you can see a treasure of period furnishings and accurately restored elements of the Craftsman style. The second floor is not accessible, but the videos that are shown upstairs can be shown downstairs upon request. Among these videos is a fascinating story about the Dunites, a community of artists and free spirits who lived in the dunes during the Depression; another details the making of The Ten Commandments.
Trailhead: Lot at foot of Oso Flaco Lake Road
Length: 1-2 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & aboveOvergrown plants narrow the path in some sections, possibly preventing access for some manual wheelchair riders.
Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle
Terrain: HardThe first section of trail is hard-packed dirt and can be muddy during the rainy months. Sand blown across the trail in some places may prevent passage.
DescriptionThe one-mile Dune Trail travels through three very different environments—woodlands, wetlands, and dunes—and is excellent for spotting birds. You travel the first few hundred yards on firm dirt through streamside woodland, with arroyo willows, wax myrtles, and other trees providing a canopy of shade—something you won't find elsewhere on the trail. You can hear the burbling creek, the music of birdsong, rustling trees, and waves crashing in the distance. Shortly after you begin to see tule and other water plants, turn left onto the boardwalk. (The dirt trail continues uphill a short distance, then ends in sand.)
The boardwalk travels slightly uphill, then levels out. As you cross Oso Flaco Lake on a footbridge, stop at one of the viewing areas for a closer look. You may see ruddy ducks, least terns, gadwalls, swallows, and other birds, though a 36-inch railing running the length of the boardwalk may block the view for some wheelchair riders.
After crossing the lake, the route climbs a moderate slope onto the dunes, where stretches of undulating boardwalk have a cross-slope that may pose challenges for those using manual wheelchairs. The landscape here changes to coastal scrub, which during my visit in late October was blooming with Hooker's evening primrose and silver bush lupine. In several places the lupine had overgrown the boardwalk, narrowing the path to less than 30 inches, but it was easy to push the plant aside with my hands and get past it in my motorized wheelchair. Soon you come to a trail junction by a picnic area and information board, where a new 100-foot section of elevated boardwalk leads to a platform overlooking the dunes.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Visitor Center: Accessible
Beach Wheelchair: YesAvailable seven days a week, 10 am-4 pm. Best to call several days in advance to reserve: Dunes Center: (805) 343-2455; Oceano Dunes Ranger Station: (805) 473-7220; or ask entrance station attendant at Oso Flaco.
Accessible Parking: Limited AccessibilityAt Oso Flaco Lake there is no striping, only a disabled parking sign. Surface is hard-packed dirt and gravel. Visitor center has accessible parking.
Accessible Restroom: YesPortable units at trailhead and near end of accessible portion of trail have no running water; visitor center has full restroom
Other Things of Interest
Features icon key
- Beach Wheelchairs Available
- wildlife viewing
|Managing Agency:||California State Parks|
|Address:||Foot of Oso Flaco Lake Rd.|
|Hours:|| Daily, 6 am-6 pm|
Dunes visitor center: Tues.-Sun., 10 am-4 pm
Did You Know?
Sedges have edges, and rushes are round, and reeds are hollow right down to the ground.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, June 29, 2007
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