Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Fish and Wildlife Service, California.

As a hub of condor activity and research opportunities, June 2013 Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan 15 Bitter Creek NWR is a unique keystone at the nexus of two mountain ranges encompassing much of the historical California condor range and serving as an important wildlife corridor. 

The refuge protects habitat within an important east/west running mountain range and provides movement corridors for populations of native ungulates, raptors, and other wildlife. 

Condor and other wildlife movements extend beyond refuge boundaries and exemplify the Service’s contribution to a much larger conservation initiative as we partner with public and private landowners. Alongside these charismatic animals, so, too, can lesser known and rare wildlife and plant species thrive within this intact and functioning ecosystem. Also protected on the refuge are Native American cultural resources and remnants of 19th century homesteads. 

Lands within the future Bitter Creek NWR were categorized as essential foraging habitat in the original Biological Assessment for establishment of the refuge (Lawrence 1983). In 1987, the Service acquired an additional 11,944 acres of the former Hudson and Hoag ranches. Since 1987, the Service has continued to work with willing landowners on various land exchanges to consolidate refuge lands with mutual management benefits (e.g., exchanging outlying refuge lands for private in-holdings within the approved acquisition boundary). Because the Service’s land acquisition program is based on willing sellers, not all lands within the approved acquisition boundary will become part of the refuge. Today, the approved acquisition boundary includes 23,572 acres, of which the Service owns 14,097 acres in fee title. 


The Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge is closed to public use.

Wildlife viewing and photography are possible around the refuge, and best accessed from the Bitter Creek NWR sign outlook area on Hudson Ranch Rd. (formerly known as Cerro Noroeste Rd) Maricopa. The refuge encompasses the rolling foothills between the San Joaquin Valley and the coastal mountain range. Approximately two-thirds of the refuge is open grassland, providing valuable foraging habitat for California condors.

Hiking within the refuge is only allowed during specially guided tours by USFWS staff or members of Friends of California Condors Wild & Free. These usually take place a few times per year, especially during National Wildlife Refuge Week in October. Please call the refuge manager if you would like to arrange for a special tour at (805) 644-5185 X 296.

The refuge is administered by Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex which oversees Bitter Creek, Hopper Mountain, Blue Ridge, and Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes NWRs, totaling 20,015 acres of conserved land. The refuge complex main office is located off-refuge at 2493 Portola Road, Suite A, in Ventura, California.

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