Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1992, the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a vast area under the protection of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Refuge Headquarters and Blue Heron Trails are located south of Sacramento, just outside of Elk Grove.
“Before European settlement in the 1790s the Beach-Stone Lakes Basin was a magnet for wildlife. Elk, pronghorn, and even grizzly bear inhabited the grasslands. During winter storms, the flooded basin could stretch from lower Morrison Creek, 10 miles south to the Mokelumne River, expanding lakes and seasonal wetlands that supported tens of thousands of migratory birds. The land destined to become a National Wildlife Refuge literally teemed with wildlife.”
The area is filled with activities for visitors. There are docent-led wildlife observation walks and paddle tours, educational opportunities, and waterfowl hunting.
The winter is the best time to observe the millions of waterfowl and migratory birds that use the Pacific Flyway to head to their over-winter habitats. Common distant visitors include ducks, geese, Sandhill cranes, sandpipers, and plovers. Spring means that many bird species head home but many others stay in the Refuge to raise their young. The season gives way to the heat of summer and the shortening days of fall. And so the cycle begins again.
Stone Lakes is composed of a rich mosaic of habitats that support hundreds of species for both resident and migratory wildlife. The main types of habitat you’ll see are grasslands, riparian forest, woodland savanna, freshwater lakes, freshwater sloughs, perennial wetlands, seasonal wetlands, and vernal pools.