National wildlife refuges offer visitors a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with natural surroundings. The refuge offers visitors a 4-mile Pelican nature trail and a seasonal Beckwith wildlife observation area to observe and photograph wildlife. There is always something to see at the refuge, but certain times are better than others and the cast of nature’s characters changes with the seasons. From day to day, the best time for observing wildlife is early in the morning. The second best time is the last hour or so before sundown. No matter when you visit, bring your binoculars, camera – and your curiosity!
If you have 15 minutes
- Explore the Wetland Loop of the Pelican Nature Trail.
If you have 1 hour
- Bring a picnic lunch and explore the Wetland Loop and Brush Rabbit Straight sections of the Pelican Nature Trail.
If you have a half day or more
- Bring a picnic lunch and explore the entire 4 miles of the Pelican Nature Trail. If the visit is during the fall or winter, also travel to the Beckwith wildlife observation area to view large concentrations of geese and sandhill cranes.
Location and Contact Information
Established in 1987, the 7,300-acre San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is located in California's Stanislaus County. The refuge is situated where three major rivers (Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin) join in the San Joaquin Valley, creating a mosaic of habitats that provide ideal conditions for great wildlife and plant diversity.
The refuge was initially established primarily to provide wintering habitat for the Aleutian cackling goose – a federally-listed endangered species at that time. Today, the refuge is managed with a focus on migratory birds, endangered species, and riparian and wetland habitat restoration. Through rigorous efforts at the refuge, there is hope that the highly-endangered riparian brush rabbit will one day join the Aleutian cackling goose as a fully-recovered species.
Learn about several key wildlife species at the refuge, including Aleutian cackling geese and riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.
Learn more about riparian brush rabbits.