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Stories from the valley

Cosumnes River Preserve: A Great Outing for Everyone

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Winter is upon us, and it’s time to visit what is now one of my new favorite places. Located just 10 miles south of Elk Grove, the Cosumnes River Preserve is a winter refuge for thousands of birds from all over the west.

Now, I am not a birder. However, the Preserve has miles of trails (some paved), opportunities for paddling, and the opportunity to enjoy the sensory delight of beautiful scenery and the sounds of a variety of bird calls.

Cosumnes River Preserve trail marker

My wife and I arrived at the Visitor Center at 13501 Franklin Blvd., Galt, CA, in the early afternoon. There was plenty of parking and, even with the center closed due to COVID, maps and information to get us started were available. I would recommend immediately looking for an information post that contains the Preserve QR code, which allows you to download a map and interpretive information onto your cell phone.

We headed immediately to the ADA compliant Boardwalk Trail that took us out into the Lost Slough. There was a large variety of waterfowl on the water and along the trail. Geese were present in the largest number, but also Egrets, Mallards, Wigeons, and the list goes on. The air was alive with their calls.

wetland lookout point at Cosumnes River Preserve

As I said earlier, I’m not a birder, but it was great to see so many different birds. And here’s a secret: I enjoyed using a new app that enabled me to identify lots of different species. You can download the free Merlin Bird ID app, developed by Cornell University, and use it to identify birds by sight and sound. All you do is take a picture or record the sounds around you, and the app will identify the bird(s) and give you information, pictures, and a great deal more. With this tool, our outing became a treasure hunt to see how many different varieties we could find. The app is user friendly. It does require data on your phone, so be prepared for that.

After the Lost Slough, we headed out the Wetlands and River Walk Trails. This was a wonderful ramble through the area by the Cosumnes River, with views of more birds in restored wetlands, an otter slide, wood duck houses, and more. The Wetlands Trail is also ADA compliant, and while the River Walk Trail is dirt, part of it was smooth enough for baby strollers. However, stay on the trails because there is lots of poison oak at the sides of the trail waiting to visit its misery on the unwary.

people walking the trail at Cosumnes River Preserve

This was a completely delightful visit, and though I’m not a birder, next time I head out I will be taking binoculars. I hope you can manage a visit now in January and February when the Preserve hosts the greatest number of birds.

For more information, please click here.