The vernal pools develop for short period of time in the rainy season. They sit in the earth on top of the hard-pan soil beneath them but then disappear by the summer.
Wet Phase: November through March (during this period a lot of the amphibians are breeding)
Flowering Phase: April and early May (during this period you see a lot of wildflowers)
Dry Phase: June through October (during this period everything is dried out and waiting for the next rainfall, so there’s not a lot of obvious stuff to see)
• Easy to Locate? Yes
• Pet Friendly? NO. No pets allowed
• Easy to Walk? Sort of. The ground is generally flat but there are no marked trails, and it can be very wet and muddy around the pools.
• Is there a Fee? No
• Are there Restrooms? No.
• Is there Accessible Parking? No. Park along the side of the dirt road; do not block traffic.
• Other Notes: Because the vernal pools are “ephemeral” and disappear as soon as it gets hot in the summer months, the best time to view them is the brief window between April and May when the wildflowers are most plentiful and the ponds are full of insect larvae, fairy shrimp, and tadpoles. Try going there a few weeks in a row to see different flowers blooming in different sequences.
Currently, the site is open to the public for free, but things may change as the site is developed to protect the pools and their associated wildlife from incursion and damage.
Sometimes the city puts out pallets so you can stand at the edge of the pools. Do NOT enter the pools at any time for any reason; the wildlife in them is very fragile.
See my FLICKR account for more albums of photos taken at this location .
When you’re out there, you’ll see some odd “erector-set” looking bits of white PVC pipe poking up from the ground. These are part of a geology/hydrology study being done at the site. Do not disturb these structures.
A wide variety of microscopic organisms and invertebrates that specialize in being able to survive in these short-lived pools. The site also attracts a variety of reptiles and amphibians like the American Bullfrog, Western Spadefoot (only active on a few rainy nights between October and March), and the California Tiger Salamander (December through February) and the California King Snake, Garter Snakes and Gopher Snakes.
Among the mammals you may see (usually around dawn or dusk) are Pocket Gophers, Black-Tailed Jackrabbits, the California Vole, and Coyotes. Depending on the season, birding can also be exciting here with a wide variety of wading birds and other waterfowl, raptors and songbirds.
How to Get to the Mather Vernal Pools
From downtown Sacramento
• Take Highway 50 EAST to Zinfandel Road
• Leave the freeway at Exit 17/ Zinfandel Road
• Turn RIGHT onto Zinfandel Road
• Stay on Zinfandel until it ends at a dirt road
o You’ll see some interpretive signage that explains what the vernal pools are.
o The pools will be to your RIGHT in the open fields
Sacramento Splash has a great website on the pools: https://www.sacsplash.org/vernal-pools