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Credit 1 Pam Starr
2 Alyn Robert Brereton
3 Julie MacKinnon
4 Linda Pittman
5 Parham Pourahmad
6 Larry Whiting
7 Randall Finley
Area: 60,200 Acres
Lat: 33.3286 N
Lon:  115.8434 W
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Top Banner Photo Credits
Pam Starr
Alyn Robert Brereton
Julie MacKinnon
Linda Pittman
Parham Pourahmad
Larry Whiting
Randall Finley
Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge - Site # 182
From gulf to ancient sea to desert. At one time the Gulf of California extended into what is now known as the Imperial and Coachella valleys. A natural dam was formed through silt deposits off the Gulf and resulted in the formation of an ancient sea. Through time, the Sea evaporated and formed a dry alkaline basin. In the early 1900's only dry desert shrubs were present where the Refuge and lake shore is today.

Refuge Entrance Sign: 1024x768 Welcome to the Refuge: 1024x768

Background: In 1905, the Colorado River broke through an irrigation project and, for two years, flooded a dry, saline lake bed, creating an inland sea now 35 miles long and 15 miles wide, 227 feet below sea level. Open water, salt marshes, freshwater ponds, and desert scrub attract more than 400 bird species, including accidentals such as the flamingo, brown booby, and frigatebird. Resident birds include greater roadrunners, Gambel's quail, Abert's towhees, and endangered Yuma clapper rails, among others. View tens of thousands of migratory birds, including fall views of egrets, plovers, brown pelicans, and American white pelicans. Huge masses of northern pintails, and Ross' and snow geese arrive in winter, along with bank swallows, gulls, rough-legged hawks, and peregrine falcons. Spring brings many birds of prey, terns, yellow-headed blackbirds, hooded orioles, and white-faced ibises. Summer populations include yellow-footed gulls, gull-billed terns, black skimmers, American avocets, wood storks and occasionally fulvous tree ducks.
Information about nearby geothermal activity is provided. Some geological interpretation is explained on signs along the Rock Hill Trail. Also who lived in the area before farmers and what was the land like (hint: ancient Lake Cauhuilla was larger than the current Salton Sea).

The Habitat: The area around the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR has a wide variety of habitats that attracts a diverse birdlife. The open sea and the shoreline provide habitat for most of the species that can be found here. Adjacent freshwater wetlands at the refuge and the Imperial Wildlife Area provide another valuable habitat. The surrounding irrigated farmland attracts large amounts of foraging egrets, gulls and ibis amounting a huge temporary freshwater wetland throughout the valley all year long. Native tree and shrub rows occur along roads at the SBSS NWR and the Imperial Wildlife Area. These attract many passerines in migration. Desert habitat 10 miles away on the outskirts of the agricultural land provides yet another birding habitat.

The Experience: The irrigated farmland, the freshwater wetlands and the Salton Sea combine to provide a vast amount of habitat for birds. It's location also helps. It is at a junction where birds migrating south along the Pacific Coast,or the Coast Ranges or the Central Valley of California to Mexico pass through to fuel up before continuing south or on their way back north.

Wildlife and Where to Find It: Thousands of waterfowl and other birds spend the winter at the refuge. Canada geese, snow geese, American avocets, black-necked stilts, pintails, green-winged teal, eared grebes, and a wide variety of other species are commonly seen during the winter.

Viewing Tips: Shorebirds are seen year-round, particularly in fall and spring. High probability of seeing wading birds year-round; rails are vocal in spring and summer. Waterfowl, birds of prey, and songbirds are seen from fall through spring, terns are expected in spring and summer. View small mammals, predators, reptiles, and endangered desert pupfish year-round. A visitor center is open a M-F all year and during weekends Nov.-March. Each site offers different facilities; call for details. Excellent car viewing at some locations. Excellent birding at Whitewater Delta. Restricted viewing during hunting season. AREA IS VERY HOT APRIL THROUGH SEPTEMBER. ROADS IMPASSABLE AFTER RAIN.

Site Notes: Much of the accessible areas around the Salton Sea are surrounded by agriculture. Much of the wildlife that is attracted to the area is attracted to water drained into the Salton Sea. from farming.

More than 70 percent of the California Burrowing Owl population is found within the Salton Sea ecosystem.

Nearby Viewing Sites: Imperial Wildlife Area, Wister Unit
Dos Palmas Preserve
Salton Sea State Recreation Area

Visitor Information: Brawley Chamber of Commerce - (760) 344-3160 - http://www.brawleychamber.com
Viewing Site Hours of Operation are:
Staff On-site: Yes
Open: Everday
Hours: Sunrise to sunset. Office 7:00 am - 3:30 pm
Year Round: Yes

Road Information:   Paved.  Gravel. 
Road Hazards: No special hazards, however roads may be impassable after rains. Please respect posted road closures to protect sensitive wildlife habitat.
 Number of Parking Spaces: 20
Parking Fee: No
Proximity to viewing area:
 Pull-Through Parking: No
Parking Notes: 

How to Get There: Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge: From Highway 86/78, take Forrester (Gentry Road) north to Sinclair and refuge entrance. Imperial Wildlife Area; From Niland on Highway 111, drive 5 miles north on Highway 111, turn west at wildlife area sign and continue 2 miles. Salton Sea State Recreaton Area; From Interstate 10, take Dillon Road/Coachella exit; drive 1.5 miles to Dillon Road and turn right. Turn left on Grapefruit Boulevard, then turn left on Highway 111 and continue 23 miles to entrance.

Contact Information
Managing Agency: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Agency Site URL: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/sonny_bono_salton_sea
Physical Address:906 West Sinclair Road
Calipatria, CA 92233
Agency 2:100-225 State Park Road
Mecca, CA 92254
Manager Phone:(760) 348-5278 x227 Contact Us:by Email
Site Phone:USFWS (760) 348-5278 State Parks (760) 393-3810
County: Imperial
Addition Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21261