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Stories from the valley

Birds, Bats and Beauty – The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is a must see!

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

It happens every time. Ten minutes into my trek to Sacramento, I smile. That’s when I hit the causeway, the elevated stretch of concrete that links Davis, where I live, to our state’s capitol city. This is the location of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. I’ve driven this route thousands of times, but the beauty, birds and bounty of the bypass always surprise me. “I’ve got spend more time exploring this special spot,” I whisper to myself as I whiz by. You should too. Here’s why.

hand holding a brown bat


Birds (nearly 200 different species), beavers, muskrats, river otters, turtles, toads, snakes and plants call this wetland area home. Also, bats! You’ll only find those in the summer when Mexican free-tailed bats arrive in droves (to the tune of a quarter of a million!) and use the warmth of that causeway concrete as a space to stay and have their babies. One of the largest bat colonies in the state, the fly into the sly nightly at dusk, and it’s a sight to see.

person watching flock of birds at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

A Step Back in Time

Located in the historic Yolo Basin floodplain and along the Pacific Flyway, this was once an 80,000-acre wetland marsh teeming with the herds of tule elk! Today, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The area serves several purposes. Flood control is paramount, as during heavy storms and high-water events water from the Sacramento River system is released into the bypass to protect Sacramento and neighboring cities from flooding. The area is also managed for wildlife and habitat preservation and for recreational and education uses. 

birds taking flight at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

It’s Free!

The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is open from sunrise to sunset, every day, except December 25, and in times of flooding. There is no fee to visit, and you can do so from the comfort of your vehicle as you drive along the region’s gravel paths. There are parking areas and walking trails for those who want to explore on foot. Monthly tours, given by the Yolo Basin Foundation, are an excellent way to get a more in-depth understanding of the flora and fauna of this region.

It’s Close!

Just west of the city of Sacramento and within earshot of Highway 80, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area exists in the shadow of its urban neighbor. You don’t have to go far to discover nature at its finest in the Sacramento Valley.