During recent geological history, the Santa Ana River was a major factor influencing the development of coastal wetlands from Newport Bay to Seal Beach. Periodic flooding events have rerouted its course throughout much of the northern Orange County coastline.
The river's present out fall was artificially created in 1920 when it was confined between levees and diverted from connection with western Newport Bay. At the turn of the century, an estimated 8,000 acre area between Newport Mesa and Bolsa Chica Mesa and extending inland as far as 7.5 miles was covered by freshwater, brackish water, and tidal wetlands. U.S. Geological Survey maps from that period show the course of the Santa Ana River running along the base of Newport Mesa and through the present day park site. This wetland system was eventually isolated by Pacific Coast Highway construction, river channeling, and flood control channel dredging and construction of levees.
Today most of these wetlands have either been diked or filled. Row crops were grown on the bench which contains the park site in the 1950s and in the 1960s and early 1970s organic gourds were grown on the site. Through the late 1970s and the 1980s the site lay abandoned and had evolved into an annual grassland with isolated areas of shrubs and exotic plant species.
In the mid-1970s the County of Orange acquired the 180 acre ecological preserve through the State of California. The North Talbert Preserve consists of 91.5 acres and the South Talbert Preserve is approximately 88.5 acres.
The construction of North Talbert commenced in 1993 and was funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy and the County of Orange, Harbors, Beaches & Parks / Environmental Management Agency.
Immediately prior to the construction of the park, sand verbena, beach bur, beach evening primrose and deerweed were found growing in the area where the coastal strand, or dunes zone has been established. In the area of the wetland, approximately ten acres of mulefat scrub intermixed with exotic plant species existed.
The planting of the new park was guided by the remnant material found growing on the site as well as the estimated original plant communities.