Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

Easy to Locate?

Dog-Friendly?

Easy to Walk?

FREE?

Adequate Parking?

Restroom Facilities?

Sort Of

Yes

 Yes

$6 Day Use

Yes

Yes 

The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge is part of the larger  Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex of protected wildlife areas which includes the Delevan Wildlife Refuge, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the Llano Seco Unit, the Sutter Wildlife Refuge and several others.  This refuge itself consists of 5,077 acres of wetlands, with some grasslands and riparian habitats and seasonal sloughs. Dogs are allowed (on a 6-foot leash).

It has a three-mile loop auto-tour and a 1 mile out-and-back hiking trail for the public, a large viewing deck (and it’s surprising how close to it many of the bird will come), a small parking area, a restroom facility and a few picnic tables.  It’s surrounded by flat agricultural land and in some places gives you an excellent view of the Sutter Buttes in the distance.

Colusa: the bluffs. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Colusa: the buttes. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Portions of the auto tour are narrow, including a bridge that will accommodate only one vehicle at a time, so be watchful and respectful of other drivers and stay in your vehicle.

I often see species here that I don’t see in the much larger Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, including Ross’s Geese and Black-Crown Night Herons.  In fact, when I was there in February of 2016 I saw a whole phalanx of over 30 Night Herons roosting along the slough at the end of the auto tour, napping and waiting for dusk to fall.

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How to Get to the Refuge

I had a little trouble finding it when I first went looking for it because there are signs along Highway 20 that lead you toward the hunter check station but don’t tell you where the refuge itself is until you’re almost on top  of it.  so ignore all of the check station signs and continue on Highway 20 until you come to O’Hair Road.  It turns quickly into a wide dirt road (so drive carefully and watch for ruts and pot holes) that will take you right to the entrance of the refuge.  The place is open from dawn to dusk every day.

  • From I5 take the Highway 20 exit to Colusa
  • Head about 7 miles EAST on Highway 20 to O’Hair Road
  • Turn RIGHT on O’Hair and follow it to the refuge
To the refuge from Sacramento. Map courtesy of Google Maps.
To the refuge from Sacramento. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

For more information about the complex:

Phone:(530)934-2801. Address: Sacramento NWR Complex, 752 County Rd 99W, Willows CA 95988. Email: sacramentovalleyrefuges@fws.gov, and check out the California Watchable Wildlife website