What You Can Expect to See
Hours And Regulations
The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is OPEN.
There are no restrooms or portable toilets available.
On Interstate 80 at the Yolo Causeway between Davis and Sacramento, you will see a large sign identifying the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area. That sign showing the logos of the many Yolo Basin partners marks the location of one of the nation's most exciting developments in wetland conservation and education. Covering 25 square miles and home to nearly 200 species of birds, the Wildlife Area is located in the heart of one of the country's richest agricultural areas, alongside one of America's busiest people throughways I-80, and next to a bustling metropolitan area, Sacramento.
The 16,000-acre Yolo Wildlife Area is one of the largest public/private restoration projects with 3,700-acres of land in the Yolo Bypass floodway restored to wetlands and other associated habitats, with more restoration in the works. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife manages the Yolo Wildlife Area to promote an increase in waterfowl and other bird populations.
President Bill Clinton dedicated this remarkable area in November 1997, and hailed the project as a national model for meeting the challenge of "trying to improve our economy and lift our standard of living while improving, not diminishing, our environment." He also acknowledged the extraordinary collaboration and effort that have enabled our mosaic of seasonal and year round ponds, grasslands and riparian forest to thrive.
The establishment of the Yolo Wildlife Area and the work of the Yolo Basin Foundation have been widely regarded as a model for planning and completion of other wetland projects in the Yolo Bypass. The Bypass is a key component of the habitat restoration planned as part of the Cal/Fed Bay Delta Accord process now underway, and is a vital element of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture's habitat restoration goals. The Foundation is an important local player in implementing these many plans.
The Yolo Wildlife Area is the site of the Discover the Flyway program for schools implemented by the Yolo Basin Foundation and in partnership with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. More than 4,000 students, teachers and parents visit the area annually to learn about the importance and beauty of this local wetland and its significance for their lives.
Guided tours of the Yolo Wildlife Area are available the second Saturday of each month from September to June. Please see our Events page for further information.
The Yolo Wildlife Area is home to many birds, plants, fish, reptiles and mammals. It’s not uncommon to see White Pelicans soaring above you, shorebirds such as Yellow Legs, Black-necked stilts and Avocets probing the shallow waters for nutritious invertebrates (bugs), and the occasional river otter rollicking in a pond.
The abundance of wildlife in the Yolo Wildlife Area can be attributed to the various habitats found within. There are four major habitat types that you can expect to see:
- Permanent Wetlands: These are wetlands that are generally deeper and hold water. They are often characterized by the presence of emergent vegetation, such as cattails (Typha sp.), tules (Jucus sp. Scirpus sp.) and sedges (Carex sp.) in the shallower regions of the ponds. Permanent wetland habitat provides resting, and feeding habitat for ducks, geese, rails, and songbirds; and foraging habitat for wading birds such as herons, egrets, pelicans and ibis. In the spring and summer they often serve as brood ponds for ducklings.
- Seasonal Wetlands: Just as the name implies, these wetlands change with the seasons and are often much more shallow than permanent wetlands. During the rainy months between winter and early spring, these wetlands are flooded. Over the dry months from late spring to late fall the water is drained and the ponds become mud flats. Water control is the key to any successful wetlands management program. These wetlands are vital feeding and resting areas for thousands of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds that have been wintering in the Central Valley for centuries. When the water is drawn down in the spring, the seasonal wetland plant seeds, such as swamp timothy (Heleochloa schoenoides), begin to germinate and grow. This low growing annual plant is an abundant food source for waterfowl and presents minimal resistance to flood flows, an important characteristic for any planting or land form in the Bypass.
- Riparian Forests: Putah Creek, a very important riparian habitat in the local area, terminates within the boundaries of the Yolo Wildlife Area. Riparian forest habitats are usually tree dominated landscapes growing adjacent to or on the bank of a pond, lake, channel, stream, or river. In addition to trees, riparian habitat includes a dense, complex understory of shrubs and vines, all adapted to living in wet or damp soils. Riparian habitat is important for nesting and foraging for many species of birds, including wading birds, passerines (songbirds) and raptors such as the threatened Swainson’s hawk. Riparian corridors form important pathways for migratory birds such as warblers, and other neo-tropical migrant birds which depend upon relatively unbroken lanes of riparian vegetation for food and cover during migration. Riparian woodlands also provide food and cover for some mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Since riparian vegetation does present significant resistance to flood flows, it is not a common habitat type in the bypass.
- Grasslands: Grasslands are often found in the upland areas of wetlands where the water is less abundant and soil saturation is lower. Grasslands are important for nesting and cover for birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. They often support large rodent populations that become prey for raptors and carnivores.
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Photo Album
Click here to see an album of photographs by former Yolo Bypass Wildlife
Area manager Dave Feliz.
The Yolo Wildlife Area is managed for many uses and provides a wide variety of benefits. The functions and their order of priority are:
- Flood Control
- Wildlife and habitat management
- Recreation and educational uses
The Yolo Wildlife Area is located within the Yolo Bypass, a flood control structure within the historic Yolo Basin floodplain, whose boundaries are defined by constructed levees. The Bypass carries Sacramento River water at overflow to the Delta and is operated as part of the Sacramento River Flood Control System. The Wildlife Area has been carefully designed and constructed to avoid impacts on the flood carrying capacity of the Yolo Bypass, hazardous levels of mosquitos without impacting surrounding farming operations. Intensive management is necessary to accommodate the constraints imposed by these conditions and still provide suitable habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife species.
During periods of high precipitation and/or extreme run-off events, the Bypass will continue to function as it has since it was constructed in the early 1900’s. The major change resulting from the creation of the Wildlife Area concerns water control and wildlife management during non-flood periods.
The Yolo Wildlife Area is open to the public, 7 days a week from sunrise to sunset except during periods of flooding. Permits and fees for daily public use are not required. Sunrise/Sunset times are posted on the front gate as well as in Parking Lot A. At this time bicycles and dogs are allowed only in the Causeway which is between Interstate 80 and the Railroad tracks. Horses are not allowed in the area. Vehicles must stay on the gravel tour route or parking lot areas. There are multiple walking trails throughout the Wildlife Area. Feel free to explore.
Facilities in the Wildlife Area are limited.
California Department of Fish & Wildlife Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters
45211 County Rd 32B (Chiles Rd)
Davis, CA 95618
CDFW Information Line: 530-757-2461
CDFW Headquarters Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8am-4pm
Waterfowl, pheasant and dove are hunted on the Wildlife Area during their respective seasons. Hunting and fishing regulations are posted on the California Department of Fish & Wildlife website. Please contact them for further information on open seasons and regulations.
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