Fish and Wildlife Service, California.
The Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, located south of Sacramento, California, lies within the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the destination of thousands of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water birds. The refuge was established in 1994 and is one of the few urban refuges that have the potential to attract and educate thousands of visitors in a region that is becoming the new Silicon Valley of California. Through a number of innovative partnerships, the refuge is protecting scarce natural habitats and agricultural resources in an area threatened by urban sprawl and agricultural changes. Stone Lakes Refuge contains both seasonal and permanent wetlands, riparian forest, and grasslands, as well as some of the last remaining freshwater lakes in the central valley. These habitats support large populations of migratory water birds, a major rookery for several colonial nesting species such as great blue herons, and a warm water fishery. Several endangered, threatened, and special-status species benefit from these habitats: the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, Swainson's hawk, and greater sandhill crane. Visitor numbers increase every year; they topped 8,500 in 2001, despite a lack of developed facilities such as a visitor education center and restrooms. Volunteers from the local area dedicate their time on weekends guiding visitors through grasslands and tree-lined waterways to educate the public about the refuge in their backyard.
The refuge headquarters is located at 1624 Hood Franklin Road. Take Interstate 5 south from Sacramento, approximately 12 miles to the Hood Franklin exit. Turn west (right) about 1 mile. The office is a two story building with a red tile roof on the south (left) side of the road. A self-guided hike to the universally accessible wildlife viewing platform is open to the public every second and fourth Saturday of each month except July and August. The trail is normally open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; but please call the information line (916-775-4420) for any updates to the schedule. To find the entrance to the hiking trail, take Interstate 5 south from Sacramento, approximately 10 miles, to the Elk Grove exit. After exiting, turn right on the off-ramp before going back over the overpass, and meet at the gate for special events and public access days.