Like state and national parks protect wildlife and habitats on land, marine protected areas (MPAs) conserve and restore wildlife and habitats in our ocean. Under the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) passed in 1999, California began a historic effort to establish a science-based, statewide network of MPAs through a collaborative effort that includes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California State Parks. California is taking a regional approach to the design and implementation of MPAs, and has divided the state into five regions: the north coast, south coast, north central coast, central coast and San Francisco Bay.

MPAs contribute to healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems that can better withstand a wide range of impacts such as pollution and climate change. By protecting entire ecosystems rather than focusing on a single species, MPAs are powerful tools for conserving and restoring ocean biodiversity, and protecting cultural resources, while allowing certain activities such as marine recreation and research. There is a global body of scientific evidence about the effectiveness of marine protected areas and reserves to restore marine ecosystems (

In the waters adjacent to Russian Gulch State Park, there is one MPA, Russian Gulch State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA).

  • Russian Gulch State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
    • This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:
      39° 19.860' N. lat. 123° 48.840' W. long.;
      39° 19.860' N. lat. 123° 49.000' W. long.;
      39° 19.470' N. lat. 123° 49.000' W. long.; and
      39° 19.470' N. lat. 123° 48.500' W. long.
    • Russian Gulch State Marine Conservation Area extends out from the beach at Russian Gulch State Park and includes the double cove near the beach and the cove to the north. Walk to this calm cove along the creek and watch river otters play. Then launch a kayak and explore the cove and the rock walls on either side. On the south, you can paddle through a tunnel into Mendocino Bay.
    • Devil’s Punchbowl, the park’s most famous feature, formed when pounding waves forged an inland tunnel and left a hole 100 feet across and 60 feet deep. At high tide, boiling waves crash around the cave’s interior, producing a reverberant echo.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Commercial take of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is prohibited. All other commercial and recreational take is allowed in accordance with current regulations.

This information does not replace the official regulatory language found in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 632, including commercial allowances and restrictions.

  • A fishing license is required for any fishing.
  • All existing take regulations still apply in addition to the ones listed above.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all non-consumptive recreational activities are allowed.

Additional Resources:

For additional information on MPAs please visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website:

For resources related to MPAs, please visit the Marine Protected Areas Education and Outreach Initiative’s website: