Nestled at the heart of California’s Central Valley, the Cosumnes River Preserve is one of the few protected and “undammed” river and wetland areas in the state. This 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat also contain grasslands and a large riparian forest (a wooded area of land near a body of water), attracting around 250 migrating and wintering waterfowl and native bird species.
The Cosumnes River, which lies on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, flows through the Central Valley and merges with the Mokelumne River, spills into Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and out into the Pacific Ocean.
Aside from protecting the flora and fauna unique to the land, the preserve also provides environmental education to the public through outdoor recreational activities.
Fun Activities You Can Do in the Cosumnes River Preserve
The deck, boardwalks, trails, waterways, and outdoor exhibits are open to the public from sunrise to sunset, allowing people to do low-impact, nature-focused recreational activities like hiking, bird-watching, boating, and nature photography.
Surrounding the Visitor Center is a 4-mile trail that consists of the “River Walk Trail” and “Wetlands Walk Trail” which are both relatively flat, while the 7-mile “Howard Ranch Trail,” which lies east of Galt, includes a scenic view of vernal pool, grasslands, and wetlands.
The preserve also has a 1-mile wheelchair-accessible trail called the “Lost Slough Wetlands Boardwalk,” which is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Similar to other trails, this one also provides an up-close view of the wetlands and waterbirds while featuring scattered seats throughout the trail.
When going for a hike, make sure that you bring water because there is no fountain or potable water along the trails. Additionally, the premises prohibit dogs, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and other similar vehicles.
Perfect for kayaking or canoeing, the calm waterways of the Cosumnes River do not permit motorized boats. And because it is the only free-flowing (undammed) river that flows from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’ll get to see the wetlands and oak woodlands in their most “undisturbed” state.
You can access the 80-mile river from the preserve’s dock, which lies south of the Visitor Center. However, you need to walk around 200 yards from the parking lot to get to the boat launch.
The free parking lot is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. While the entrance gate closes at 5 pm, the exit gate closes at sunset.
Fishing and Hunting
During specified seasons, fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines from boats, with bank fishing disallowed. Though hunting is usually off-limits, the preserve occasionally organizes limited-entry waterfowl hunts for young and mobility-impaired hunters, ensuring inclusive outdoor adventures for everyone.
The preserve’s wetlands and grasslands attract migratory birds such as cranes and waterfowl, making this a perfect place for bird enthusiasts. On the west side of Franklin Blvd., along Desmond Road, is another excellent bird-watching spot where cranes usually gather at dusk and dawn.
Guidelines for Visitors
- The preserve does not permit pets.
- Visitors must not leave trash behind.
- Trails are designed for walking only, with an exception for wheelchair-bound visitors; scooters, skateboards, and bikes are prohibited.
- For safety and preservation reasons, visitors must remain on designated, marked trails.
- The preserve bans smoking, camping, and fires.
- Collecting items such as rocks, feathers, or plants from the nature preserve is not allowed.
- Only guests with proper permits can fish and hunt from boats; bank fishing and hunting on foot are forbidden at the preserve.
Contact number: Visitor Center 916-684-2816
Address: Bureau of Land Management Cosumnes River Preserve, Galt, CA 95632
Direction: The nature preserve is around 20 miles south of Sacramento. If you’re traveling from the city of Sacramento, take Interstate 5 south and turn onto the Twin Cities Road and, head east to Franklin Boulevard, then go past Desmond Road.
The preserve’s Visitor Center is located about half-mile south along Franklin Blvd. on the east side.
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