The Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Natural Reserve protects roughly 7,000 acres of unusual habitats, including rare serpentine soils. Chemically hostile to most plants, serpentine deposits cover one third of the reserve, creating habitat islands that support rare and endemic plants adapted to these harsh soils, and numerous associated endemic insects. Where soils are "normal", vegetation shifts suddenly to more typical coast range habitats, including riparian woodland, blue oak woodland and savannah, grassland, and chaparral.
The reserve is managed by UC Davis and owned in part by the university and Homestake Mining Company (a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation). The mining company is decommissioning an innovative open-pit gold mine and reclaiming an extensive area of disturbed lands. The reserve is the repository of over 20 years of environmental monitoring data collected by the mining company.
Overnight accommodations include a fully-equipped field station and a comfortable camping area.