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SMBRC: About the Bay

About the Santa Monica Bay and Its Watershed

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Santa Monica Bay

Santa Monica Bay is an integral part of the larger geographic region commonly known as the Southern California Bight. The Bay itself is the submerged portion of the Los Angeles Coastal Plain. It is bordered offshore by the Santa Monica Basin, on each end by the rocky headlands of Point Dume and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and onshore by the Los Angeles Coastal Plain and the Santa Monica Mountains.

The 414 square mile area of land that drains naturally to the Bay, known as the Bay watershed, is bordered on the north by the Santa Monica Mountains from Ventura-Los Angeles County line to Griffith Park, extending south and west across the Los Angeles Coastal Plain to include the area east of Ballona Creek and north of Baldwin Hills. South of Ballona Creek, a narrow coastal strip between Playa del Rey and the Palos Verdes Peninsula forms the southern boundary of the watershed.

There are 28 separate sub-watersheds within the larger Santa Monica Bay watershed. The three largest are Ballona Creek, Malibu Creek, and Topanga Creek watershed. The northern watershed is dominated by the Santa Monica Mountains, the central portion by the Los Angeles Coastal Plain, and southern portion by the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The diverse ecosystems within the Santa Monica Bay water-shed provide habitats for more than five thousand species of plants, fish, birds, mammals, and other wildlife. The Bay’s terrestrial habitats include riparian woodlands, coastal sage scrub, oak woodlands, coastal sand dunes, salt and brackish marshes, lagoons, and mudflats. Marine habitats include soft and hard bottom, sandy and rocky intertidal, and kelp and seagrass beds.

State of the Bay Reports