What is the smallest butterfly at Ballona? The Western Pygmy Blue Butterfly is not only the smallest butterfly at Ballona, it is the smallest butterfly in North America.  Native to Ballona, this little butterfly feeds on alkali heath found at the wetlands. volunteer now »
Visiting the Ballona Wetlands

While much of the reserve is currently closed to the public, Friends of Ballona Wetlands, together with our community partners, offer many opportunities to visit Ballona, including weekend tours, monthly volunteer restoration events, and more. Click on the following links for more information.

Restoring Habitat and Building Community

Through our programs, Friends of Ballona Wetlands offer opportunities for integrative outdoor education, ecological restoration, and community service right in the middle of urban Los Angeles.  Over 7,000 participants partake in these learning and restoration activities each year.  Since 1994, over 75,000 people - from preschool to well into retirement and from all areas of Los Angeles and beyond - have come to learn about and help restore Ballona through the Friends’ programs.  Participants learn about Ballona’s history, the value of wetlands, native habitats, watershed issues and more, and then can immediately engage in hands-on habitat restoration and nature exploration.  Teamwork and accomplishment are reinforced with each group, building a sense of community and empowerment as we work to restore this rare and valuable coastal ecosystem.  Thanks to contributions of time, energy, and funds from members, student groups, and corporations; the Friends have created an experience where building community and restoring native habitats go hand in hand.

Community Participation
In addition to scheduled educational programs and special projects, Friends of Ballona Wetlands also offers ongoing programs that are open to the public.  These regularly scheduled programs take place on the same day of each month, year-round. 


On the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, FBW docents share their knowledge of the birds and natural environment at the Ballona fresh water marsh.  On the second Sunday of each month, all are welcome to join FBW for an in depth tour of the salt marsh and dunes.  And on the fourth Saturday of each month participants share in a sense of accomplishment as they help restore the sand dunes and trails at Ballona.  These programs are ideal for individuals and very small groups, since no reservation is required.  Reservations are requested for groups of five or more persons.


Partnerships and Special Projects
While Friends of Ballona Wetlands’ continuing education and restoration programs prove to be highly enriching experiences, occasionally we work with schools and other organizations to create in-depth programs which involve multiple visits to the wetlands over a period of time.  These programs help us to restore the habitat, to document  progress, to gain better understanding of restoration practices in local coastal dunes systems, and to accomplish important projects on the site.


Since 1990 the Audubon Society has offered tours of the Ballona Wetlands for children grades 3 - 6.  More than 50,000 children have participated in the program, which offers an opportunity for students to see the last major salt marsh in Los Angeles County and to learn about the native plants, insects, birds and marine invertebrates that inhabit this beautiful natural environment.  During the children's two hour walk of the wetlands the students have an opportunity to use microscopes to observe live microorganisms which are carefully collected and returned alive to the wetlands.  Audubon leaders and docents guide the students through all the stations of the program, which includes hands-on restoration work in the wetlands, learning about the history of the Ballona watershed, wetlands ecology and the food chain, viewing birds through spotting scopes and binoculars, and leaving with an Audubon educational booklet on the wetlands to remember their experience. 


Each year, the Friends introduce students from Otis College of Art and Design to Ballona Wetlands through an on site program and discussion about plastics in our marine environment, the value of coastal ecosystems, and a special “sketch day” where students come out to quietly draw, write, and photograph their impressions of the wetlands.  In 2008 the  Friends worked with the Integrated Learning Department at Otis to facilitate the creation of a design for a sustainable, environmentally sound, on-site Restoration Center.  The result was both impressive and inspiring.


Dr. Philippa Drennan, a member of the Friends’ Board of Directors and a professor of biology at Loyola Marymount University, conducts research on the plants of the Ballona dunes and salt marsh, creating protocols and documenting the progress of the Friends’ Dunes Restoration Project and a better understanding of native plant ecology.  Also, LMU professors Dr. Carolyn Viviano, Dr. John Dorsey, and Dr. James Landry contribute to program development, supervision of interns, water quality studies, and in numerous other ways help to support the mission the Friends’ mission.


The Friends has a positive partnership with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps SEA Lab.  New Corps members come to Ballona for an introduction to the wetlands and close up study of an established native dune habitat.  Together we have brainstormed and experimented with the ins and outs of germinating some of the more sensitive dunes plants.  One such brainstorm resulted in Dr. Drennan’s study and report on the germination of native sand verbena, a beautiful, somewhat delicate plant necessary to the dunes ecosystem.


Students from local high school marine science classes come to Ballona several times a year to help remove invasive plants from the wetlands.  During each visit they gained deeper understanding of the ecosystem.


Eagle Scout projects are challenging and rewarding ways to contribute to the restoration program at Ballona.  These projects provide the opportunity to grow and gain a sense of accomplishment as the scout plans the project with the Programs Director, organizes the community, and works to complete the task. 

Wonders of Wetlands Program
Wonders of Wetlands program (WOW) offers science-based curriculum for in class presentations and Ballona class visits for Kindergarten through third grade classes. Each group benefits from a wetlands introduction at their school followed by an interpretive tour and hands-on restoration work at the Ballona dunes.