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Stories from the valley

Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful resource just 10 miles from Sacramento. It is a large area and presents many opportunities for schools, families, and individual visitors.

We arrived at the refuge at 1624 Hood-Franklin Road, Elk Grove, in the morning and were greeted by small, brown birds scampering about on and at the side of the road. Now, I’m not a real bird person, but I did recognize them as Killdeers, which I happen to like. I found them delightful as they skittered along the ground.

There was ample parking right next to the Blue Heron Trails around the central area of the refuge. The trails are paved and begin at an amphitheater that is great for school or other group visits. In non-COVID times tours are available weekdays.

We wandered the trails and enjoyed the bird calls, buzzing dragonflies, and the wind whispering in the cattails and grass. The solitude was enjoyable, and the subtle beauty of the wetland was very enjoyable during what is the off season.

In the winter and spring when there is more water, this area comes alive with migratory birds. Birds like ducks, geese, Sandhill cranes, sandpipers, and plovers spend the winter to be followed by American Avocets, Mallards, Tree Swallows, Swainson’s Hawks, Great Blue Herons breeding in the spring.

The refuge offers great visitor activities like guided walks, paddle tours, educational education and more. Sadly, the visitor center is closed and many activities are currently suspended by COVID. Activities, admission to the refuge and parking are free. Now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the refuge and think about future visits when more birds return, and the activities reopen.

Open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the refuge is a great place to relax and imagine days past days when the area teemed with birds, elk, pronghorn, and even grizzly bears. For more information, please click here and enjoy your trip to this unique spot in the Sacramento Valley.