Jug Handle Cove is located about 5 miles (8 km) south of Fort Bragg and 5 miles (8 km) north of Mendocino, California. The cove is named after Jug Handle Gulch, which was named in 1941 for the shape of the original bridge that crossed it. California State Route 1 now crosses the creek on a concrete open-spandrel deck arch bridge.
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve is a California State Park preserving a series of five marine terraces that exhibit different stages of ecological succession. The terraces were eroded by wave action over millennia as the land gradually rose from the sea by plate tectonic uplift and sea-level changed from melting glaciers. Each terrace has been above water about 100,000 years longer than the level below it. The material base from which the terraces were fashioned is composed of a uniform body of graywacke sandstone. Although each terrace has evolved from the same parent rock, each has been weathered for different lengths of time creating different soil types.
The different soil types on each terrace caused different plant communities to evolve, with each level showing 100,000 years of progression through the stages of ecological succession. The lowest terrace supports a prairie ecosystem, the second terrace has a redwood forest, and the third exhibits a unique pygmy forest of 5-10 feet (1.5 to 3.0 m) tall cypresses and pines and dwarfed shrubs of rhododendron, manzanita, and huckleberry. The Ecological Staircase is a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) trail that traverses these three terraces from the coast to inland. Read more here and here. Explore more of Jug Handle Cove here: