Madrona Marsh: Torrance's Secret Urban Oasis (Hiding in Plain Sight)

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Photo by David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A.

By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

Mapquest and Google Maps don’t show it. Countless people who live and work in Torrance drive right by it and have no idea. Yet it’s there and very real: the 10-acre Madrona Marsh Nature Preserve, an urban oasis right in the middle of Torrance.

According to the Friends of Madrona Marsh, it is a vernal marsh that consists of run-off from the hillsides of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. While the marsh is most attractive in the spring, when rainwater fills the depressions and creates pools, it can be a pleasant escape into nature at any time of the year. In addition to the green meadows and willow trees that can be found here, the marsh is also a nice spot for birdwatching; egrets and ducks are among the birds that can be seen here.

The entrance to the marsh (which is closed on Mondays and holidays and open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 5pm) is on Plaza Del Amo in Torrance. From I-405, take the Hawthorne Blvd. exit and head south to Carson Ave. Turn left on Carson, right on Madrona and left on Plaza Del Amo and take a left into the parking lot across the street from the marsh. From I-110, take the Sepulveda Blvd. exit and head west to Maple Ave. Turn right on Maple and left on to Plaza Del Amo, and right into the parking lot.

After crossing the street, you enter the marsh. There are several trails that run through it. You can head clockwise on a path that circles the outside of the marsh. It goes through a meadow, and reaches the wetlands on the south side of the park. Here, old willows bend down to meet the water, and several benches allow visitors to sit and look at the wildlife. The whole loop is less than a mile, although a few trails that cross the reserve allow walkers to put together several possible different routes.

You will hear and see the signs of the city nearby; this is not necessarily the place to go for absolute solitude. However, the Madrona Marsh is proof positive that even in unlikely places, nature is still alive and well and there for the enjoyment. People who haven’t spent much time exploring the outdoors will be pleasantly surprised to find it so accessible—and even veterans of the outdoors will appreciate this park, and how it hides in plain sight. No matter what your experience with the outdoor is, the Madrona Marsh of Torrance is well worth a visit.