Butterfly Places - Natural Bridges
Santa Cruz – California Central Coast
One of the amazing Monarch Butterflies’ favorite winter homes is a magical beach, lagoon and forest on the northern edge of Santa Cruz.

Natural Bridges State Beach has a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, with a fine boardwalk trail into the grove. It is a special place that has become a great source of local pride. It was dedicated on “Welcome Back Monarch Day” October 8, 1988. Funded by the California Park Bond of 1984, and Monterey Bay Natural Historical Assoc., and built by the California Conservation Corps. The Milkweed Demonstration Garden is in the fenced enclosure next to the youngsters playing.

Monarch arrive in late Summer for their Santa Cruz overwinter.
          The incredible 2,500 mile journey from Western Canada
is one of Nature's most epic events.  Around Monterey Bay there 
are three other notable winter homes for Monarchs:  Lighthouse Field
a short distance south from Natural Bridges; Point Lobos at the 
Whaler's Knoll; and the most famous at Pacific Grove
A Monarch Butterfly’s journey is an amazing feat. It is all the more remarkable when viewing the wonder of creation and development of this incredible critter.


Larva –known as a Caterpillar – emerges from a Monarch Butterfly egg and feeds on milkweed. Less than one-tenth of an inch long (2 millimeters) at hatching, the caterpillar is tiny but very busy. It begins eating the leaf where it hatched, and continues eating voraciously for three weeks, as it grows to 25 times its original length, and 3,000 times in weight. It grows so much that it has to break out of its outer skin, a hard cuticle, and grow a new skin five times during this three week period.


Then it hangs upside down and becomes a pupa. This Chrysalis -a tough little container – is where the caterpillar makes a metamorphosis to a butterfly. The change takes about a week.

These three photos (including the one below of the Monarch cluster) were taken by Randy Widera at Lighthouse Field in Santa Cruz, between the town and Natural Bridges State Park

On a calm, sunny day, before noon, the new Monarch Butterfly emerges. First they continue building their new bodies by pumping fluid from the stomach to the veins. Then they hang from a branch and stretch their new 4 inch wings, and develop their sensory powers. The next morning, when it’s warm enough, over 50 degrees F., they flap their wings, drop from the branch and flutter off to explore their environment. They feed on blossoms and grow quickly. Eating only fruit juice, water and nectar they become astonishing aviators, capable of great distance migrations.

Visit our Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly page

Become a Monarch Docent-Naturalist at Natural Bridges State Park

The best way to learn about and to experience the Monarchs is by doing and teaching others.

Email Martha Nitzberg, Park Interpretive Specialist:


call Natural Bridges State Park at: 831.423.4609


At the Park Store a marvelous collection of books, games and apparel is available for browsing and buying. Check it out. All proceeds go to educational programs at the Santa Cruz Coastal State Parks.




Visit our Affinity Partner Community organization – Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

The Eyestorm of Changeour Santa Cruz Story and Gallery page


         For more Butterfly web sites, go to:
      My Butterfly Collection The Gerald Mines site
      with a great page about creating a garden for Monarchs 
         Soon!  A page in PelicanNetwork for creating a Butterfly Garden with Native California Plants.
               Join butterfly discussions
You can chart the Monarchs' migration (Canada to Mexico, primarily)
 progress with observer comments at this site:  Monarch Migration

Birding at Natural Bridges

Lighthouse Field in Santa 
Cruz is a favorite for 
Monarchs.  Humans and 
their dogs, or, it may be 
the other way around, are
fiercely attracted to this
field, also.  To get a much
fuller insight to this wildly
interesting location,
Contact Us, or, Make a Comment to PelicanNetwork

Other Pelican Pages for Santa Cruz

Birding at Natural Bridges

Redwoods, and Birth of California State Parks

Santa Cruz Story and Gallery

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

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