There’s a treasure under the Yolo Causeway, the overpass that connects Davis and Sacramento. The Yolo Bypass is invaluable for flood control, but it also provides habitat to waterfowl and other wildlife, fertile fields for agriculture, walking trails for the public, and hands-on learning for students of all ages.
Whether you tour by car, foot, bike or with a guide, there’s lots to see any time of year. And most of it is free.
Walking trails: There are several seasonally maintained loops, ranging from 0.78 to 3.3 miles long. Bikes and dogs are allowed only in the Causeway area, between Interstate 80 and the railroad tracks. Be prepared for windy conditions.
Auto tour: The auto loop is six miles long, with opportunities to park and explore along the way.
Admission: Unless it’s flooding, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is open every day, sunrise to sunset, except Christmas. It’s free to enter and does not require a permit or reservation.
Birds: There are more than 200 species of birds, including hawks, falcons, kites, warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, pheasants, mallards, harriers, stilts, avocets, gadwall, pintail and teal. For a full list of likely species each month, visit https://www.yolobasin.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Microsoft-Word-YBWA-Calendar-and-species-lists-.pdf.
Land and agriculture: The wildlife area is 25 square miles of seasonal and permanent wetlands, uplands, grasslands, riparian forest and vernal pools. Seasonally, there’s also rice fields and rangeland for cattle.
Water: The area serves as flood control for the Sacramento River water that overflows to the Delta. It also helps farmers and provides bird habitat.
Monthly tours: The Yolo Basin Foundation offers three-hour guided tours every second Saturday of the month from October through June. The nonprofit gladly accepts a $10 donation per adult. Registration is required. Visit https://www.yolobasin.org/wetlands-tours/.
California Duck Days: A family-oriented wetlands and wildlife festival, with activities and field trips. The 2022 event is April 30, at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters, and cost is $20 per car. Visit https://www.yolobasin.org/californiaduckdays/.
Bat Talk and Walks: Colonies of migratory bats live under the Yolo Causeway each summer. The Yolo Basin Foundation leads a three-hour tours from mid-June through mid-September, where patrons witness bat “flyouts” at sunset. 2022 dates will be posted in early June at https://www.yolobasin.org/battalkandwalks/.
Explorer Series: You don’t have to be an elementary school student to benefit from environmental education. The Explorer Series offers popular science-based field trips and hands-on environmental workshops for adults. Naturalists, photographers and other leaders in their fields share their expertise. Dates and times vary but fill up fast. Typical cost is $175 for a one- or two-day session. Visit https://www.yolobasin.org/explorer/.
The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is at 45211 County Road 32B (Chiles Road). From Davis, take the Mace Boulevard exit off I-80 to Chiles Road, then onto the levee. From Sacramento, take the County Road 32A/East Chiles Road exit and go under the freeway, and turn left onto the levee.
Parking and entrance to the auto loop are just east of the levee. There are parking spots along the route as well. The east and south sides of the bypass are closed during various bird-hunting seasons, typically September through December.
Stop by the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters at 45211 County Road 32B (Chiles Road) in Davis. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Phone 530-757-2461. View a map of the area here.
The area is managed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Since 1990, the nonprofit Yolo Basin Foundation has worked in cooperation with CDFW and other government, environmental, water, conservation groups and farmers to steward the wetlands and wildlife and build public appreciation of its benefits.
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