Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

Aerial view of tidal channels within the Ballona Wetlands and Ballona Creek.

History of the Wetlands

In the Los Angeles region, over 95% of coastal wetlands have been lost over the past century and a half.  The Ballona Wetlands once encompassed an area of over 2,000 acres, stretching from Playa del Rey to Venice and inland to the Baldwin Hills.  Today, only approximately 600 acres of open space remain, and much of that area is highly impacted and degraded after centuries of development and abuse.  The land is now owned by the State of California and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The wetlands and their surrounding open space together comprise the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (Reserve).

The Reserve today looks very different from its past.  A once-meandering Ballona Creek was cemented into a straight, concrete channel nearly 100 years ago, cutting off most of the wetlands from its water source.  A significant portion of the wetlands – once home to abundant fish and waterfowl – was filled in to build Ballona Creek in the 1930s and Marina del Rey in the 1950s and 60s.  Invasive plants not native to Southern California have taken over much of the Reserve, crowding out native plants, stealing water, and altering soil chemistry for native species.  People used to come here to fish, hunt, swim and hike, but now the Reserve is off-limits to the general public.  After years of state budget cuts and little funding for management, illicit and damaging dumping of trash and encampments of homeless people are common uses of the Reserve today.

For a detailed history of the wetlands and the Ballona Creek Watershed, click here for a pdf of the historical ecology report.

Restoring the Reserve

Undoing some of the damage within the Reserve would bring back plants, birds, and other wildlife.  Possibilities range from removing weeds and fixing fences, all the way to re-creating wetlands and a meandering creek to attract the frogs, fishes, birds, and wildlife that call healthy wetlands their home.  Rooted in years of scientific research and guided by community input, the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project would revive critical wetland habitat and offer a remarkable natural space for the public’s use and enjoyment.  Restoring natural functions to the Reserve could heal this damaged landscape and create a thriving wildlife reserve and unique community asset.  A restored Ballona Reserve could be a refuge for thousands of migratory birds and an important nursery for baby halibut, oysters, and other fish and shellfish.

TBF participates in the restoration planning process, supporting the two lead agencies for the project:  California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  TBF’s scientists and technical experts review documents and provide valuable information to guide the process.

Click HERE to view a graphic that describes the four proposed restoration alternatives.

Click HERE to view infographics describing water, plants, disturbance, and public access for the Reserve.

Visit the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project website for additional information.

Scientific Monitoring

Since 2009, TBF’s wetland team has been actively engaged as the pre-restoration monitoring lead at the Ballona Reserve.  The monitoring program was developed to comprehensively survey the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics needed to inform the State’s restoration planning process at the Reserve, as well as to develop baseline information and data to assist long-term and regional monitoring programs.  Information and data collected as part of this program contributes directly to the restoration planning process.  Detailed monitoring has been conducted on everything from water quality, to plants, and birds!

Visit our Report Library to download copies of TBF’s scientific monitoring reports and technical memorandums.  For detailed information about the overall restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, including updates about the EIR, please visit


Some tools for a vegetation survey (23 Sept 2009)

Community Hand-Restoration at the Reserve

TBF is currently implementing an Iceplant Removal Project that will remove approximately three acres of invasive iceplant monocultures south of Culver Boulevard.  Removing iceplant and other non-native vegetation on-site will help protect the remaining native flora that will be critical to the revegetation of the Reserve for the larger multi-year restoration effort.  Iceplant is a creeping, mat-forming group of species that form dense monocultures causing a reduction in biodiversity and competing directly with native wetland species.  Iceplant provides little protection or useable habitat for native birds and wildlife.


Mounds of iceplant being removed from Ballona south of Culver Blvd (13 Sept 2016)


Click to view information about the science being conducted in Ballona Wetlands by TBF:

Baseline Assessment Report (2009 – 2010)

Baseline Assessment Report (2010 – 2011)

Comprehensive 5-Year Monitoring Report (2009 – 2014)

Climate Change Implications for Ballona Wetlands Restoration