The Shakedown Cruise: Day 7 – Mackerricher State Park

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Mackerricher is a California state park located a little north of Fort Bragg. When our boys were little, we brought them here on camping trips to see the seals and the tide pools. Our last visit was many years ago, so I was slightly concerned when we saw on the website that the park was partially closed and we might not get the opportunity this time to revisit our favorite spots. Nevertheless, today we drove north to see what we could.

The old gray whale skeleton was still guarding the entrance kiosk when we pulled up.

gray whale at mackerricher A friendly park ranger explained that recent storms, coupled with ongoing construction to remove an old road, washed out one of the access roads in the park. Cleanup was ongoing and parts of the dunes were cordoned off to allow re-vegetation. Camping was closed until work finished, but day use was still being allowed and there was no fee!

Happily, we drove into the park to the Lake Cleone parking lot. The small lake area seemed closer to the ocean than it used to be. It’s an easy place for kids to fish. 

lake cleone at mackerricher

Lots of people were visiting, but not nearly as many as there would’ve been during a normal year. Mackerricher is very popular; so much so that it’s almost impossible to get camping reservations. Actually, I’ve found that true for most of the state parks. I’m not sure if it’s because more people are camping or because of the online reservation system. Now that it’s both convenient to make the reservation (a couple of clicks instead of a phone call) and still cheap, campsites are reserved far in advance. Unless you’re the kind of person who plans your camping trips months ahead of time, you’re really out of luck. I think it’s still possible to wait at the gate until after late check in to see if there are no-shows. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a spot, so it’s best to have an alternative plan. And if you use this method, you can only stay as long as the no-show had a reservation.

Today we weren’t camping, just hiking, so it wasn’t a problem. We walked the half mile to the start of the boardwalk, admiring the views along the way. The tide was coming in, which is not the best time to visit tide pools. We did see many crabs, anemone, and some urchin.

mackerricher state park

The harbor seals were amazing, though. Lots of them were sunning on the rocks just off shore. 

seals at mackerricher

Occasionally they scooted up to a better place (sometimes scooting on their backs) or let out a moo. But I think we caught them during nap time.

We ended the visit with a yummy plate of fish and chips at the North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg. Delish!

It was a beautiful day at another beautiful place on the California coast.

In two days our trip will end. I’m a little sad because I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to come back. I hope so; we’ve made lots of memories here as a family. I’d like to think we’ll be able to bring grandkids to see the seals and tidepools, just like we did with our kids. But one never knows what the future will bring. So I try to enjoy each and every moment as if I’ll never have it again.

And I look forward to our next adventure, too!




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