PLEASE NOTE: For information on public use regulations for this area and other Department lands, please refer to the CDFW Public Lands Regulations. All visitors are responsible for knowing and following these regulations.
Activities: fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, hiking, and hunting
To best appreciate this area, one needs to use a small boat or kayak and navigate the many sloughs that circulate through the interior of the marsh. Please consult local tide tables for the best (and most safe) boating opportunities to tour the area. Also please be aware of waterfowl hunting activity during the months of October through January each year.
It is highly recommended that you print out a map and become familiar with it prior to visiting.
Bird List (PDF)
Facilities: Restrooms are available at Huichica Creek, Green Island and Napa River (Pond 1) Units.
Type C Wildlife Area: No permits, passes, or reservations are required. Waterfowl, coots, moorhens, quail, snipe, rabbits, pheasants, and doves may be present.
Hunt days are Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays during open seasons for authorized species, except rabbits may be hunted daily during the September dove season.
To view which zones/units are open or closed for hunting, please refer to the Hunting Areas Map (PDF).
Junior Hunt: Each year the wildlife area sponsors a youth pheasant hunt. Permits will be issued by drawing. To be eligible, youths must possess a valid Resident Junior Hunting License. Check with CDFW to find out dates for the hunt (typically November). Any vacancies after the drawings will be filled on a first-come, first served basis through applications.
Questions concerning these special youth hunts should be directed to Karen C. Taylor, Associate Wildlife Biologist, at: (707) 944-5567 or Karen.Taylor@wildlife.ca.gov.
Originally one of the richest wetland ecosystems in the nation, the San Francisco estuary once comprised over 4,600 square miles of habitat ranging from open water mud flats to tidal salt, brackish, and fresh water marshes to associated upland grasslands and riparian areas. This area was of global importance to the millions of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl that used it, as well as the resident populations of mammals, fish, and crustaceans. Unfortunately, since the first Spanish explorers arrived, over 90% of these wetland habitats have been dramatically altered or destroyed. At the northern edge of San Pablo Bay, the Napa, Sonoma, and Solano County tidal marshes have changed from an area once over 90 square miles to less than 50,000 acres presently.
The Napa River Unit was first leveed off (diked) from San Pablo Bay during the 1850s for hay production and cattle grazing. Embankment construction continued for several years and much of the land was converted to salt ponds in the 1950s for salt production through the solar evaporation of bay water. The area was designated as a Wildlife Area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1953. In the early 1990s, Cargill Salt Company stopped producing salt in the ponds on the west side of the Napa River and sold the evaporator ponds to the State of California, which assigned ownership and management to CDFW.
Please consult the History Tour Guide (PDF) for a history of each unit.
Restoration of the Napa River Unit has long been a vision for local resource agencies, conservationists, and planners. It is one of the largest tidal restoration projects on the west coast of the United States, and one of many restoration projects throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Current projects in the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area focus on the restoration, enhancement, and development of the wetlands. A diverse ecosystem of tidal salt and brackish marshes, managed salt marshes, and ponds with some fresh water and seasonal wetland components is the final objective.
Approximately 11,000 acres of this property is comprised of former evaporative salt ponds, levees, and accreted tidal lands purchased from Cargill Salt Division in 1994 and 2002. These ponds are part of two extensive restorations involving many different partners including both state and federal agencies, The Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration and the Napa Plant Site Restoration. The main focus of the restoration efforts is to reclaim former tidal marsh areas that were originally leveed off many years ago, however, several ponds will remain, managing water depths for the benefit of many avian species, especially shorebirds.
For the most recent information on the status of the salt pond restoration efforts in Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, please go to the Restoration Project website.