The San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is a protected area along the San Joaquin River in northern San Joaquin Valley, California. It's located in San Joaquin County and Stanislaus County. It protects more than 7,000 acres (28 km2) of riparian forests , wetlands and grasslands and hosts a diversity of native wildlife. Established in 1987 under the authority of the Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Conservation Acts, the refuge also played a major role in the recovery of Aleutian cackling geese.


The San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge is one of California 's largest riparian forest restoration projects. 400,000 native trees have been planted over 1,700 acres (6.9 km2) of the floodplain. The main project was led by River Partners, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to restoring riparian wildlife habitat.


Riparian forests, which once covered large portions of the Central Valley of California, have been greatly reduced due to national and federal water projects and diversions. The important riparian habitat of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is home to many rare animals. Swainson's hawks nest in the canopy of tall cotton trees. Herons and cormorants form a colony of nesting in the tops of the large oaks on the island of Christman. Endangered riparian rabbits have been reintroduced from captive-raised populations to their historic habitat.


At the San Joaquin River, visitors can explore the 4-mile Pelican Nature Trail and the Beck with wildlife viewing area off Beckwith Road.


The Pelican Nature Trail meanders through seasonal wetlands, restored riparian forests, and old-growth valley oak groves. The trailhead includes an educational, seven-acre native vegetation free-range exploration area.


The Beckwith Observation Platform is open seasonally from mid-October to mid-March and overlooks the Refuge agricultural fields and grasslands that provide forage for thousands and thousands of Aleutian cackling geese and smaller Sandhill cranes.


Another nearby attraction to explore – the San Luis NWR Visitor Center and Headquarters located in the San Luis NWR includes an exhibition hall with interactive wildlife and habitat education exhibits, tule elk viewing, a multipurpose room for conservation meetings and environmental education programs for schools, and is the administrative headquarters of the Compl. The Visitor Center complements the San Joaquin Valley of California wildlife refuges and provides a focal point for visitors and a starting point for exploring the entire Refuge Complex.


The facility was designed for environmental sustainability and energy efficiency and has been awarded a Platinum rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ( LEED) program and is committed to producing all the energy used by the facility through solar panel banks. The Visitor Center may be open seasonally for extended periods of time, but is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except holidays.


Field trips for school groups may be arranged to take place outside the San Joaquin River NWR or near Los Banos at the San Luis NWR Visitor Center located approximately one hour from the San Joaquin River NWR. Outdoor field trip activities in the San Joaquin River NWR may include guided nature hikes and ranger conversations.


An hour away near Los Banos, the San Luis NWR Visitor Center's indoor classroom, outdoor amphithéâtre and wetland are well suited to support quality curriculum-based field trips for schools and other groups. Refugee staff may make field trips guided by appointment. Please phone the refuge office for details.


There is always something to see in the entire complex of refuges. The ideal time for viewing waterfowl is October through March; with a large number of geese, cranes and other waterfowl present from December to February. The tule elk rutting season can be experienced from July to September; and the elk cows begin to give birth to calves in April. Other migratory bird groups, such as shorebirds, hawks and songbirds, can be seen during autumn and spring migrations.


Field trips may include, but are not limited to, guided wetland / nature walks, scavenger hunting, hands-on learning in the Exhibit Hall, hands-on learning stations for outdoor activities, and wildlife viewing.

This amazing place is located near the following attractions in Manteca, California:

  • Caswell Memorial State Park

  • Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple

  • Stockton Field Aviation Museum 

  • Woodward Community Park 

  • Gnekow Family Winery 

  • Shasta Park

  • Manteca Historical Society

  • Lucca Winery

When you’re done visiting this amazing landmark make sure to stop by our offices at RC Plumbing in Stockton on Waterloo Road! 

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