The park can be subject to flooding, so make sure to check current conditions before you head out.
This is a great family campground with lots of activities for kids (ranger shows in the amphitheater with ranger shows, beach access, etc.), so quiet time is strictly enforced.
For thousands of years, native people, primarily the Chumash, lived in this area. In summer and fall, when the Santa Clara River slowed, the Chumash set up temporary camps and harvested the area’s bounty. They used the local spiny rush plant to weave intricately crafted baskets.
Human use of petroleum in this area was first documented when the Chumash used asphaltum deposits to caulk their tomol canoes, to waterproof baskets, and to affix decorative items to a variety of objects.
Young Dominick McGrath came to California from County Longford, Ireland, in 1848. He made his fortune selling wool, mutton and hides in the gold fields. McGrath purchased more than a thousand acres of land near the mouth of the Santa Clara River and started a highly successful farm. As he prospered, Dominick and his family and friends often visited the river, the beach, and the surrounding area.
Dominick McGrath’s descendants sold 295 acres to the State of California in 1961, so the public could also enjoy this coastal wetland habitat. The land was declared a state park in 1962.
The need for fossil fuels can wreak havoc on the natural environment. In 1993, an oil pipeline near McGrath State Beach ruptured, spilling more than 2,000 barrels of crude oil into McGrath Lake, contaminating the lake and some surrounding dunes. After years of cleanup, the lake and its environs are still being restored.