Black Lake Canyon, located on the Nipomo Mesa, may well be the best kept secret in San Luis Obispo County. Concealed within this lush ravine is the only peat bog in our region from which water eventually flows to a series of unique freshwater dune lakes on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The Land Conservancy has permanently protected a 200-acre checkerboard of these sensitive habitat lands that make up our Black Lake Canyon Preserve. We have conserved another 1,320 acres where the Canyon opens up onto the coastal dunes. In total, this area of protected lands is greater than the entire area of the City of Grover Beach. Some of these lands remain in private ownership, but the gateway to Black Lake Canyon Preserve is Kathleen’s Canyon Overlook, on the corner of Callender Road and Highway 1 in rural Arroyo Grande.

The scenic Kathleen’s Canyon Overlook offers breathtaking views of Black Lake Canyon and the world-class Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes while sheltering various wildlife species. Originally a homestead property, a dilapidated building was removed from the site when it was purchased for conservation in order to restore the land to its natural state. Recently, the 55-acre site was dedicated to the late, longtime environmental activist Kathleen Goddard Jones, affectionately known as the “Dunes Mother”.

“The sand dunes are healers. If you have an unhappy marriage, or anything that’s going on in your life – their peace and tranquility will help you out of your dilemma. They are a wilderness in our own backyards.” Kathleen Goddard Jones.

The Land Conservancy is currently working to enhance the site in order to improve public access and exploration of the property’s unique resources. Fundraising efforts are underway to pay for these new amenities such as a boardwalk leading to a viewing platform along the edge of the canyon, an interactive walking path with multi-lingual interpretation, a staging area for equestrians to access nearby riding trails, and a series of picnic tables and seating areas.

Kathleen’s Canyon Overlook Project Highlights

  • Conserves 55 acres of coastal dune scrub
  • Offers incredible scenic views for residents and visitors
  • Shelters rare plant and animal species
  • Provides free access to 6 acres of Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes ecosystem
  • Supports education field trips, student research projects, and outdoor learning opportunities

Project Funding Partners

  • Save the Mesa
  • California Regional Water Quality Control Board
  • State Coastal Conservancy

Currently, there are no free public parks, open spaces, or rest areas along the 45-mile stretch of Highway 1 between the communities of Oceano and Lompoc. This region encompasses the Santa Maria River Valley which is an underserved community with just a few fee-based access points to the surrounding natural areas. Our vision to provide free public access at Kathleen’s Canyon Overlook will address this community need. Help us achieve our goal by contributing to the project.