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Credit 1 Pam Starr
2 Alyn Robert Brereton
3 Julie MacKinnon
4 Linda Pittman
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6 Larry Whiting
7 Randall Finley
Visitation: 90,000
Area: 26,800 Acres
Lat: 37.175329
Lon: 120.802338
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Pam Starr
Alyn Robert Brereton
Julie MacKinnon
Linda Pittman
Parham Pourahmad
Larry Whiting
Randall Finley
San Luis National Wildlife Refuge - Site # 317
The largest contiguous block of freshwater marsh wetlands remaining in California, recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention, as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site, and as an Audubon Important Bird Area.

A new Visitor Center opened in fall 2011.
PremiumPremium - the most significant sites, worth visiting if you have limited time. Premium sites have high wildlife values year-round, staff on site, interpretive programs and/or displays, and well-developed facilities.

Background: The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 26,800 acres of wetlands, riparian forests, native grasslands and vernal pools. A thriving population of the endemic tule elk is showcased by one of three auto tour routes open daily. The refuge is host to significant assemblages of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants. The refuge is a major wintering ground and migratory stopover point for large concentrations of waterfowl, shorebirds and other waterbirds. The Refuge has three auto tours routes with associated nature trails and observation decks for the public to view and photograph wildlife and nature. The Refuge also allows fishing at designated sites.

A new Visitor Center opened in fall 2011 and features an exhibit hall with interactive exhibits, a wildlife viewing area in the lobby, and an environmental education room for visiting schools. The state of the art building is a net-zero energy use building producing all power through solar panels, and is a LEED Platinum-seeking facility. The Visitor Center provides an exceptional focal point for visits to the refuge and is open daily from 8am - 4:30pm, except federal holidays.
Interpretive panels tell the story of the Yokut Indians that once lived on the land where the refuge now sits. The Chester Marsh nature trail guides visitors to historic sites including remnants of an old river ferry from the late 1800s.

The Habitat: Native grasslands and associated uplands (60%), seasonal and permanent freshwater marshes (25%), riparian corridors (15%)

The Experience: Part of the 228,000-acre Grassland Ecological Area which contains the largest contiguous area of freshwater marsh wetlands remaining in California, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding area are home to over a million wintering ducks, geese, and other waterbirds. Large flocks of northern shoveler, mallard, gadwall, wigeon, green-winged teal, cinnamon teal, northern pintail, ring-billed duck, canvasback, ruddy duck, and snow, Ross' and white-fronted geese swarm over the mosaic of seasonal, and permanent wetlands that comprise a quarter of the refuge. Shorebirds including sandpipers and plovers can be found in the tens of thousands from autumn through spring. Large flocks of dunlin, long-billed dowitchers, least sandpipers and western sandpipers can be found feeding in shallow seasonal wetlands, whereas flocks of long-billed curlews are found using both wetlands and grasslands. Over 25 species of shorebirds have been documented at the San Luis NWR. The area is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention, and as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site, and as an Audubon Important Bird Area. A unique opportunity to view Tule Elk.

Wildlife and Where to Find It: 3 auto tour routes and 3 walking nature trails (all on level ground easy walking ranging in distance from 1/4 to 1 mile), 3 elevated observation decks

Viewing Tips: Wildlife Observation - year round waterfowl viewing and fishing. Birding best in winter. Environmental Education and wildlife interpretation available year round. Waterfowl Hunting in fall and winter.

Site Notes: The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge provides a glimpse back in time to how the natural landscape in San Joaquin Valley looked prior to urbanization.

Nearby Viewing Sites: San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area, Grasslands State Park, Merced National Wildlife Refuge, Los Banos Wildlife Area

Visitor Information: Los Banos Chamber of Commerce - (209) 826-2495 - www.losbanos.com
Viewing Site Hours of Operation are:
Staff On-site: Yes
Open: Everday
Hours: Visitor Center 8am - 4:30pm; Refuge dawn to dusk
Year Round: Yes

Road Information:   Gravel. 
Road Hazards: none
 Number of Parking Spaces: 15
Parking Fee: No
Proximity to viewing area:adjacent
 Pull-Through Parking: Yes
Parking Notes: Parking available at Visitor Center, along auto tour routes, and at nature trail heads

Special Tips: This site is featured in the San Joaquin River Birding Trail Map, published by Audubon California. http://www.audublog.org/?p=5295

How to Get There: State Highway 152 to the city of Los Banos, turn north on State Highway 165 (also called Mercey Springs Road) and travel for approximatly 6.5 miles to Wolfsen Road. Turn right onto Wolfsen Road and travel for 2 miles to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge entrance

Contact Information
Managing Agency: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Agency Site URL: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/san_luis
Physical Address:7376 S. Wolfsen Road (not for mailing, physical
Los Banos, CA 93635
Agency 2:PO Box 2176
Los Banos, CA 93635
Manager Phone:(209) 826-3508 Contact Us:by Email
Site Phone:(209) 826-3508
County: Merced
Addition Website:  http://www.audublog.org/?p=5295