Elk 25 Miles from Turlock? Those and 10,000 or More Birds Spotted at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.
Laura, Zephyr and I took advantage of a crystal-clear and cool winter’s day to visit the new San Luis National Wildlife Refuge visitor center near Los Banos. The refuge first came into existence in the 1960’s and now provides an engineered and irrigated re-creation of the natural wetland and upland habitat that once existed along the entire stretch of the San Joaquin River prior to farming. This is also the area of the infamous Kesterson Refuge Selenium Poisoning of migratory birds.
We first stopped at the new Visitor Center on Wolfsen Road. The LEED Platinum Certified building has tons of great interactive displays for visitors of all ages. Anyone that visits will be pleasantly surprised that such a gem resides in the oft-overlooked Central Valley and then they will learn a tremendous amount about the Refuge system.
Upon leaving the VC, we headed out to Sousa's Marsh Nature Trail. The easy 1.4 mile loop took us past tens of thousands of birds. I can’t explain in with my feeble writing skills the thrill of hearing a flock of several hundred ducks take off and land in synchronicity.
A better descriptor of what can be found at the refuge is quoted from the SLNWR website: “The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 26,800 acres of wetlands, riparian forests, native grasslands, and vernal pools. A thriving population of the endemic tule elk is showcased by one of three auto tour routes. The Refuge is host to significant assemblages of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and plants; some of which, such as the California tiger salamander, the long-horned fairy shrimp, and San Joaquin kit fox, are endangered species.”
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.