I went for a hike last weekend at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge near Vernalis west of Modesto. It’s part of the San Luis NWR Complex, which includes the San Luis NWR, Merced NWR, San Joaquin River NWR, and Grasslands Wildlife Management Area. The “trail” is bit banal – very wide, very flat and appears to also serve as the utility road for refuge maintenance.
The trail is only 4 miles long and not much of a challenge or particularly interesting. Consumnes River Preserve north of Lodi is more interesting. Then again, the track at San Joaquin River NWR is a nature trail built with the average person in mind. Families with children might like it and the terrain won’t stress people who aren’t at peak fitness.
I did see some nature on the nature trail – egrets, herons, wood ducks of some kind (could have been the Aleutian Cackling geese, actually), small birds of various types, potato patch butterflies, dragonflies and other small creatures. I’ll probably return in the spring when things are a bit greener; the fall has made everything brown and dull green.
From the San Joaquin River website:
Established in 1987, the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is 7,000 acres in size and 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 mix of habitats that provide ideal conditions for high wildlife and plant diversity. The Refuge was initially established primarily to protect and manage 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 and endangered species. The Refuge is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System which consists of over 500 refuges and forms the largest network of public lands in the world managed principally for fish and wildlife.
Here are a few more photos from the hike: