The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge holds the distinction of having the most diverse array of bird species of any national wildlife refuge in the West.

Visit Us

The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge provides numerous recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year. People enjoy viewing the unique geology and diverse wildlife, whether driving or hiking. The regulation of recreation activities allows the public to enjoy the refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats.

Visitor Center

Volunteers are available to provide you with maps, brochures, and checklists, and let you know what is happening on the refuge.  The center is surrounded by agricultural fields, the Salton Sea, the Alamo River, and freshwater wetland habitats. Inside, you will find a bird diorama and a bookstore, and just outside is one of our wildlife viewing trails.  

Tips to Help You Enjoy Your Visit

  • Bring binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras to enhance your visit
  • Visit the refuge with a friend to share the experience
  • Attend a group program or tour
  • Contact the refuge for information and recent wildlife sightings
  • Respect other refuge visitors’ viewing opportunities
  • Minimize disturbance to wildlife
  • Keeping noise levels to a minimum will enhance wildlife viewing
  • Bring water, sunscreen, hats, and appropriate clothing for weather conditions

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      The refuge is located within the Pacific Flyway, an important migration route for birds. The refuge's habitats and the Salton Sea are vital to these migrating birds as a resting place and wintering area. The refuge was established as a sanctuary and breeding ground for birds and other wildlife when 32,766 acres were set aside in 1930.

      What We Do


      Some 30 national wildlife refuges  charge visitors a nominal entrance fee (generally $3-$5 daily)  to cover road and facility maintenance.  If you are a regular visitor or would like to visit other public lands, you could save by buying an America the Beautiful Federal...

      Our Species

      With over 90 percent of California’s original wetlands gone, the Salton Sea has become one of the most important nesting sites and stopovers along the Pacific Flyway. Historically, as many as 95 percent of the North American population of eared grebes have used the Sea, along with 90 percent of American white pelicans, 50 percent of ruddy ducks and 40 percent of Yuma Ridgeway's rails. With its marine, freshwater, desert, wetland, and agricultural habitats, the refuge provides habitat for hundreds of birds and wetland species, including several that have been listed as endangered or sensitive by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

      A marsh bird the size of a chicken, the Yuma Ridgway's rail is gray-brown above and buffy-cinnamon below, mottled brown or gray on its rump and has brownish-gray cheeks and flanks barred with black and white. Its somewhat orange bill is long, slender and slightly down-curved. The Yuma Ridgway's...

      FWS Focus