Skip Navigation

Public Events

  • March 26, 2016: Wildflower and Vernal Pool Tour at Arena Plains

    Join in for a special tour of a unique and ecologically sensitive area that is typically closed to the public.  Vernal pools are special seasonally-flooded depressions with impermeable hardpan bottoms that hold rainwater until evaporation occurs.  The pools spring to life as they are filled by rain:  Fairy and Tadpole Shrimp emerge from cysts embedded in the soil during previous years and amphibians, such as endangered Tiger Salamanders, lay eggs from which tadpoles hatch.  As spring arrives and the water evaporates and recedes, wildflowers – such as Goldfields and Purple Owl’s Clover – grow in colorful halos around the pools.  This annual coloring led John Muir to describe the valley floor as the “floweriest part of the world” he had ever seen. This tour will focus on wildflower viewing and learning about vernal pool ecology.

    The tour will begin at 9:00 a.m. on March 26th and last approximately 2-3 hours, consisting of caravanning in attendees’ personal vehicles (trucks and SUVs strongly recommended) into the interior of the Arena Plains Unit and walking on firm, but slightly uneven terrain.

    Due to limited parking and road infrastructure on the unit, this tour is limited to 40 participants on a first-come/first-served basis.  All Arena Plains tour attendees must phone the Refuge Complex office at 209/826-3508 to reserve a spot.  Due to the rustic nature of roads on the unit, only high clearance vehicles (trucks, SUVs) will be able to drive on the tour.  We will consolidate into as few vehicles as possible at the meeting site.

    Driving Directions/Meeting Location:

    The Arena Plains Unit is normally closed to public access and does not have a street address.  Access is from a small sandy road off of Highway 140 with a sign marked “Snobird Lane.”  The meeting location will be on the south side of Highway 140 approximately 6.5 miles east of Highway 165 and 7 miles west of Applegate Road.  From Highway 99, take Highway 140 westbound.  After passing Applegate Road, continue 7 miles.  Turn south onto "Snobird Lane" and continue for one-half mile to the meeting place at the refuge gate.  Please note to be on the lookout for the Snobird Lane sign as it is a very small dirt/sand road and could be easily missed.  It is helpful to set your odometer and watch your mileage from either Hwy 165 (6.5 miles) or Applegate Road (7 miles).


  • Upcoming Guided Nature Walks

    The Valley is full of birds of all colors, shapes, and sizes, especially during the winter and spring.  Do you ever wonder, “What bird is that?”  Visit the Complex and participate in a guided birding nature walk and learn how to identify all those birds!  Nature walks/tours will begin at 8:30 a.m. and last approximately two hours at the locations and dates listed below.  There is no registration/sign-up required for these activities, but if you have questions, please call the San Luis NWR Complex visitor center at 209/826-3508.

    Dates and locations are as follows (all are on Saturdays):

    February 27, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. – Merced NWR, meet at the entrance kiosk, 7430 W. Sandy Mush Rd., Merced, 95341.

    March 19, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. – San Luis NWR, meet at the Visitor Center, 7376 S. Wolfsen Rd., Los Banos, 93635.

    April 23, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. – San Joaquin River NWR, meet at the Pelican Nature Trail parking lot, 2714 Dairy Rd., Vernalis, 95385.

    May 21, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. – San Luis NWR, meet at the Visitor Center, 7376 S. Wolfsen Rd., Los Banos, 93635.

    Bring binoculars, spotting scopes, and field guides.  Don’t forget hats, sunscreen, insect repellent, and water.  Remember to dress for changeable late winter/early spring weather.

  • Volunteer Day: March 5, 2016

    Visit the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge on March 5th to help plant native trees and shrubs.  The planting event will take place at a riparian habitat restoration site INSIDE the Tule Elk enclosure on the Refuge.  The species planted will include willows, California rose and blackberry, and coyote bush.  We have a lot of plants to put in the ground and are hoping for many volunteers to participate!

    Location: San Luis National Wildlife Refuge - meet at the Visitor Center parking lot (7376 S. Wolfsen Rd. Los Banos, CA 93635)

    Time: Meet at 9:00 a.m.  Work activities will last 3-4 hours.

    Volunteer planting events are terrific opportunities to interact with Refuge staff and learn about habitat restoration strategies and the importance of native vegetation.  Teachers have found that volunteer planting days make great extra credit opportunities for their students. 

    Please be certain to dress for the weather and wear clothing that can get dirty, as well as sturdy, waterproof footwear (for example, hiking boots or rubber boots).

    There is no need for individuals to rsvp to participate -- simply meet us in the Visitor Center parking lot at 9:00 a.m.  Groups and classes are welcome, but please let us know if you plan to attend with a class or group.  Feel welcome to phone or email for more information and/or directions ( or 209/826-3508).

  • Photography Exhibit at the San Luis NWRC Visitor Center: Wildlife of the San Joaquin River NWR

    Photography Exhibit: Wildlife and Scenery from the San Joaquin River NWR by Rick Kimble on Display at the San Luis NWR Visitor Center

    7376 S. Wolfsen Road, Los Banos CA 93635  

    The San Luis NWR Complex is pleased to announce a special showing of wildlife photos by photographer Rick Kimble. Rick, an avid photographer and regular visitor to the Complex, is a Scientific Coordinator at the National Laboratory in Livermore. According to Rick, he “recharges his batteries by capturing images of nature.” This is the second photo display at the visitor center from Rick – this display features a variety of wildlife images and other scenes taken at the San Joaquin River NWR.

  • Contact Us

    Contact the Refuge Complex headquarters at 209/826-3508 with questions. The Visitor Center is open daily from 8am - 4:30pm.

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2016
Return to main navigation