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San Luis NWR Wildlife Observation

Auto tour routes allow visitors to remain in their automobiles, using them as a “blind” while observing wildlife throughout various habitats. Auto tour routes also include elevated observation decks with spotting scopes that allow even closer views of wildlife, and interpretive panels that provide information about wildlife, habitats, and refuge management to further enhance visitors’ experiences. Nature trails give visitors a chance to get out of their cars and experience nature and wildlife up-close.

The San Luis NWR provides a Waterfowl Auto Tour Route of 8.5 miles and a Tule Elk Auto Tour Route of 5 miles. The Waterfowl route guides visitors through seasonal wetlands providing the opportunity to see large concentrations of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other waterbirds. Interpretive panels along the Tule Elk route tell the story of this unique subspecies, endemic to California, that nearly went extinct in the late 1800s. The elk are visible throughout the year.

Nature trails include two trails that launch from the visitor center – the Upland trail (.5 mi.) and the Wetland/Riparian trail (1 mi.). Situated along the auto tour routes are the Chester Marsh trail (1 mi.), the Sousa Marsh trail (1 mi.), and the Winton Marsh trail (.5 mi.).

The Chester Marsh trail is open seasonally from February 15 through September 15, and takes visitors to a historic ferry crossing on the San Joaquin River.

The Sousa Marsh trail includes an elevated observation platform overlooking one of the largest wetlands on the Refuge, which provides spectacular waterbird viewing fall through spring.

The Winton Marsh trail meanders around a permanent wetland and includes an elevated observation platform.

West Bear Creek Unit
At the West Bear Creek Unit visitors will find an auto tour route of 2.5 mi. and two nature trails – the Raccoon Marsh Trail (1.3 mi.) and the Woody Pond Trail (1.75 mi.).

The auto tour route winds through and around a rich mosaic of riparian woodlands, seasonal wetlands, and native grasslands providing visitors the chance to see scores of waterfowl and other wildlife.

The Raccoon Marsh and Woody Pond trails provide opportunities to see waterfowl and other waterbirds in fall through spring, and native songbirds and mammals during the dry summer months.

Kesterson Unit
The Kesterson Unit is unique in the Complex in that it offers “free-roam” nature hiking throughout the Unit. However, there is no auto tour route at Kesterson and the Unit is only open to the general public from February 15 through September 15, when the waterfowl hunting season is closed.

The Kesterson Unit contains a portion of the historic San Joaquin River floodplain and is home to a unique community of plants and animals adapted to its alkaline soils.
Last Updated: Aug 22, 2012
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