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 contains 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 that 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 “River Walk Trail” and “Wetlands Walk Trail” that 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. Just like the other trails, it also offers an up-close view of the wetlands and waterbirds, in addition to seats that are scattered 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. Also, dogs, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and other similar vehicles are not allowed on the premises.
The calm waterways of the Cosumnes River are perfect for kayaking or canoeing (motorized boats are prohibited). 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
While fishing is allowed during the “special” seasons, visitors are strictly required to stay in their boats (no bank fishing). Hunting, meanwhile, is generally not allowed, although the preserve has permitted organized limited-entry waterfowl hunts for youth and mobility-impaired hunters over the past several years.
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
- Pets are not allowed at the preserve.
- Leaving trash is not allowed.
- The trails are intended for walking only (except wheelchair-bound visitors). Scooters, skateboards, and bikes are not allowed.
- Visitors should stay on the designated, marked trail for their own safety and to prevent disturbing the natural habitat.
- Smoking, camping, and fires are prohibited at the preserve.
- Visitors are not allowed to take anything (rock, feather, plant, etc.) from the nature preserve.
- Fishing and hunting can only be done from a boat by guests with appropriate permits. Fishing on the banks and hunting by foot are not allowed 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.