Kathy Toll in Mimulus

Visitor Information

All requests to use the McLaughlin Reserve should be discussed with the Resident Director and will require approval of an electronically submitted project application (see Project Application section, below).  The primary use of the Reserve is for qualified on-site research and teaching.  The Reserve may also be able to accommodate requests for access to the Reserve and facilities for academic/education-linked meetings, guided k-12 field trips, guided hikes and public education, and facility-use for regional research and land stewardship.  The Reserve is not open to general public use, but public programs with nature-based interests or projects for which the Reserve is particularly suitable may also apply for access or facility use (for more information on the facilities, including overnight accommodations, visit the Facilities link).

Reserve users must adhere to the Reserve's use procedures and rules. These rules have been developed by the University in partnership with the primary landowner, Homestake Mining Company of California.


Before visiting the reserve for the first time, all persons must read and sign the Natural Reserve System Waiver of Liability, Assumption of Risk, and Indemnity Agreement.  Classes not affiliated with the University of California should obtain and return waivers before the class arrives. A parent or legal guardian must sign the release agreements for minors.  Larger groups can have participants sign a group waiver.  Give completed waivers to the Reserve Director.


After discussing the feasibility of your proposed use of the Reserve, coordinate with the Reserve Director for your first visit and submit a project application through the "RAMS" online system.  During your first visit you will need to meet with the Director(s) and you will be given a site orientation.  While navigation systems like Google Maps will get you to the main gate using the Reserve's address, follow additional directions provided by Reserve staff to get to the meeting location, whether at facilities or on the land, for your first meeting with staff.  All visits to the Reserves require a reservation, which you will create in association with your project application.


To create and submit a project application and associated reservations, click this link for the Reservations and Application Management System ("RAMS").  For research projects, add each person coming to the Reserve individually into the Reservation.  Classes and groups should add leaders, PIs, and instructors by name but can register students or attendees as a group.


There is no charge for day-use of the Reserve by approved applicants. As of January 1, 2024, fees for all overnight stays are $10.00/night for University of California affiliates, and $15.00/night for others. For exceptional assistance with your project/group, staff time may be billed at a rate of $38/$49 per hour (UC vs non-UC rate) for stewards' time or $49/$65 per hour for directors' time. While staff time can be requested, staff may not always have available time to fulfill requests.


    Discuss what landscape characteristics or areas of the Reserve you might need prior to or during your first visit.  If you are given approval to explore particular locations for your work, provide accurate potential locations (using GPS coordinates or pins on a map) to the directors PRIOR to establishing study sites.  In seeking suitable study sites, comply with all restrictions you are informed of during orientation. Also do not consider installing study sites within 30 feet of power poles or power lines … utility companies must access their equipment on an annual basis and study sites near their infrastructure might be disturbed.
    If you are staying at the Reserve for extended periods of time, you may wish to have guests visit you. Discuss this with the Reserve director at least two weeks prior to their arrival.  Overnight use fees will apply.
  3. NO SMOKING on the reserve. 
    The Reiff Creek campground is available for setting up your own tent.  If you need to spend the night in a tent or camper elsewhere on the Reserve, arrange this with Reserve staff.  No campfires or campstoves are allowed without permission from the Resident Directors. This is a high fire-hazard area.
  5. PETS
    Pets are not allowed anywhere on the Reserve without permission from the Director.
    Most roads on the Reserve are unpaved. Vehicles must stay on established roads - never drive off the edge of a road and into vegetation, even to let someone pass.  Use designated parking areas or pullouts for passing. Speed limit is 14 mph on unpaved roads. Higher clearance vehicles are recommended; ask staff about use of roads in lower-clearance vehicles. Some roads may require all-wheel drive.  Seasonally, roads may close due to weather or wash-outs. 
  7. GATES
    1. The gate combination changes regularly. Ask for the current gate combo when you notify the Director of your next visit.  The gate code you are provided will open the combo locks with yellow reflective tape on all gates to which you have access.
    2. Close all gates behind you, even if you found a gate open. Never leave open any gate that you opened, even if there is another person a few minutes behind you. One exception:  the main gate to the field station is kept open between the hours of 6:30 am - 4:00 pm on weekdays. If you find it open outside of those hours, please close it. 
    3. For all gates that have more than one lock on them, ensure that you do not lock out any other locks on the chain.
    Read and abide by all regulations on field station use that are posted in the field station.  For information on what the field station provides, what you need to bring, and field station use policies, CLICK HERE.
    Do not disturb any flags or other markers in the field. Be careful to avoid disturbing research plots obscured by vegetation.  For your own work, if you use specific locations for research that should not be disturbed (such as plant research plots or  bird nest locations, for example), make sure the location is well marked and clearly visible so that others can avoid disturbing it.  Also make sure your name and date is on at least one flag associated with each location.  After studies are complete, all hardware used to mark or conduct your research must be removed unless you have otherwise arranged with the Reserve Director for establishing long-term plots.
    Do not enter the Mine Pit area, Davis Creek Reservoir, Tailings pond, buildings/structures other than the field station, or any areas signed as requiring special permission for access. Access to these areas is only through special approval. Discuss your needs with the Reserve Director.


For your first visit, you must meet with staff for an orientation.

In an emergency, in addition to calling 911, contact Reserve staff immediately.  Contact instructions and numbers are posted in the field station.  First responders take at least 20 minutes to get here and are unfamiliar with roads and terrain in this area; on-site staff will need to provide detailed information to guide the emergency response personnel. 

Nearest Hospital: Adventist Health Hospital is in the town of Clearlake, 30 minutes from the Reserve. To get to the hospital from the Reserve, drive west from the Reserve to Lower Lake and turn right (north) onto HWY 53 at the traffic light.  Drive two miles and turn right at the second traffic-light-controlled intersection (18th Avenue) you'll have encountered since turning onto HWY 53.  The hospital is on the right shortly after turning onto 18th Ave. 

On-site partners: Be aware that much of the Reserve property is still owned by Barrick/Homestake Mining Company, and the mine has employees on site who are involved in environmental monitoring and remediation.  Reserve users must respect work needs and safety policies of the mining company.

Do not enter/access any heavy equipment, structures, or facilities (besides the field station) without special permission.  Discuss with Reserve staff any activities that will take you near equipment, buildings, pipelines, powerlines, etc., prior to engaging in these activities. Some areas are open only by permission of the mining company. These locations include (but are not limited to) the Davis Creek Reservoir, Tailings Pond, Mine Pit, and all areas that have been directly impacted by past mining. If you wish to use any of these areas, the Reserve Directors will work with you to seek access permission from Barrick. After approval, you will need to comply with additional safety policies of Barrick. Not all Barrick-approval zones are obvious; to avoid accidentally starting work in a restricted zone, and to comply with Reserve policy, clear all your research locations with the Reserve Director before beginning.

Additional safety information:

Carry a spare tire, a jack, first aid equipment, and extra water.

Cell phone service is patchy. The Reserve provides two-way radios, for loan to researchers, which communicate directly with Reserve and Barrick/Homestake staff.  Radio protocols are posted at the radio check-out location, and must be followed.

Potential hazards include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Heat/Sun exposure.  The most common cause of field injury! Drink abundant water, and wear clothing that shades your skin.
  • Rattlesnakes. Wear long pants and hiking boots, and use caution around rocks, logs, or in tall grass. 
  • Poison Oak. Common across the reserve. "Leaves of three, let them be."  If you suspect you have been exposed, consider washing with Tecnu and/or taking an antihistamine.
  • Ticks. Ticks in this area may carry Lyme disease and other illnesses. Routine body-checks after field visits are advised. If bitten, monitor symptoms and consult with a physician. 
  • Mountain Lions. Avoid hiking alone, make noise, and if confronted, throw things and yell. Do not bend down. Do not turn your back or run. 
  • Rugged Terrain. McLaughlin is a wildland environment. There are downed logs, unstable rocks, steep slopes, cliffs, ground squirrel holes, steep and narrow roads, and many other potential hazards. Use caution and good judgment.
  • Hantavirus. This is a potentially fatal disease caused by a virus associated with mice. Do not handle live or dead rodents or their feces or urine. Use wet-cleaning techniques when cleaning up reserve facilities.
  • Hunting and trespassing may occur in the area. Please notifying the Reserve Manager of any inappropriate uses of the reserve.