Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

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 3-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.

Easy to Locate? Yes
Pet Friendly? Yes. Dogs MUST be on a leash or stay in your vehicle.
Easy to Walk? Yes. The major attraction here is the auto-tour route, but there is also a trail around the pond adjacent to the viewing platform.
Is there a Fee? Yes. You’ll need to get a pass at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Are there Restrooms? Yes.
Is there Accessible Parking? Yes, but it’s VERY limited, so car-pool if you can
Other Notes: This is like a mini version of the auto-tour at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, but you can see some birds here you don’t see otherwise. At the end of the auto tour route, for example, is a day roost for dozens of Black-Crowned Night Herons.

See my FLICKR account for more albums of photos taken at this location throughout the last several years.

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 potholes) that will take you right to the entrance of the refuge. The place is open from dawn to dusk every day (except during the times when it’s flooded or there are no rangers available).

• From I5 take the Highway 20 exit to Colusa
• Head about 7 miles EAST on Highway 20 to O’Hair Road
• Turn RIGHT onto O’Hair and follow it to the refuge. The turnout comes up very quickly after the sign for it, so be ready.

For more information about the complex:

Phone: (530)934-2801. 
Address: Sacramento NWR Complex, 752 County Rd 99W, Willows CA 95988. 
Check out the California Watchable Wildlife website and the Fish and Wildlife website at

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist

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