Much of the coastal plain of what is now Orange County was once known as Gospel Swamp and was one of the largest wetlands in Southern California. This vast marsh covered parts of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Fountain Valley. Today, the Heritage Museum of Orange County is home to the last natural lands of the historic Gospel Swamp. On the edge of the museum’s popular Historic Plaza, are four and one-half acres of open space that include the last 2 acres of the Gospel Swamp Wetlands and an additional 2 acres of other natural habitats. The area is home to a variety of animal and bird life, including squirrels, mice, opossums, coyotes, lizards, gopher snakes, and red-tailed hawks. And ducks often visit during their migratory season.
In a demonstration of sustainability and best land management practices, the museum has established the Gospel Swamp Educational Farm which covers almost 1-acre on the edge of the Gospel Swamp Natural Area. These areas provide educational opportunities for the community while preserving and maintaining two important eras in the history of this spectacular and dynamic region.
The Gospel Swamp Natural Area serves students from Kindergarten through College in hands-on ecology and natural history programs, research opportunities and recreational experiences. Habitat restoration, biological sciences and other field studies are offered. Volunteer opportunities abound, meeting many community service requirements.
Next to the natural area, students turn the soil and sow the seeds of more than 40 vegetables, fruits and herbs. In addition to sowing and harvesting from the Farm, students will also market and sell the produce they grow at a small on-site produce stand and at local farmers’ markets. The farm supports the growing local foods movement using organic methods as well as teach economics and agricultural sciences.
Together the Gospel Swamp Natural Area and Farm provides excellent recreational and quality of life benefits to the community, while increasing educational opportunities for students of all ages.
A recent addition to the Gospel Swamp Natural Area is a gold mine set used as part of our Gold Rush tour for fourth graders. It includes a mine shaft, a mine car on tracks, and a head frame that feeds water to a small stream where children pan for “Heritage Gold.”