Sandhill Crane Viewing Sites
Crane Status Update: There are still some cranes at the Preserve. Locations with the most recorded sightings during the month of February 2021 are Staten Island Road and Desmond Road.
Near the Visitor Center (13501 Franklin Blvd. Galt, CA)
By foot: The Preserve’s Wetlands Walk and adjoining boardwalk feature is ideal habitat for visiting cranes and waterfowl. Trails are open Sunrise to Sunset.
By car: There is excellent viewing west of Franklin Blvd., along Desmond Road, and beside Bruceville Road (just south of Twin Cities Rd.). The best chances to see the cranes is during dawn and dusk. You may pull off to the side of the road, but please stay off vegetation and do not walk onto the levee. This will scare the birds. Viewing is best done from your car.
Staten Island Road
Cranes and other migratory birds are attracted to flooded crop lands on Staten Island. Quite often thousands of birds can be seen flying over Staten Island during the fall, winter, and spring. Look for tundra swans, white-fronted geese, as well as both lesser and greater sandhill cranes.
Please be advised, the “NO PUBLIC ACCESS” sign is in place to make visitors aware that all levees, farm roads, and fields are private land. Visitors may only drive or walk on the main road, which is State Island Road. The paved road transitions to gravel approximately 2 miles in and public access terminates after about 4 miles. There is a sign indicating where the public road ends and vehicles may use the turnout by the water tower to reverse their course.
The corn harvest occurs in early fall (October) and visitors should avoid wildlife viewing on Staten Island during this time, for safety reasons.
Directions from the Visitor Center: Take Franklin Blvd. south and continue onto Thornton Road. Turn right onto Walnut Grove Road. After about 4 miles you will turn left onto Staten Island Road. You will see a large corn dryer on your right. Stop at the kiosk for information and continue down Staten Island road for viewing.
Woodbridge Ecological Reserve (AKA Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve)
The fields managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regularly attract large numbers of sandhill cranes during the fall and winter. There are several turnouts along Woodbridge Road, allowing the public to safely park vehicles for bird viewing. CDFW offers fall, docent-led tours. Information can be found here: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-visit/Woodbridge-ER
Directions from Visitor Center: Take Franklin Blvd. south and continue onto Thornton Road. Turn right onto Walnut Grove Road and take I-5 south to the Peltier exit. Go east for a short distance and turn right onto Thornton Road. (Frontage Road). Drive on Thornton Road for approximately 2 miles, then turn right at Woodbridge Road. Travel approximately 2.5 miles to the first turnout.
Frequently Asked Questions
What time of year are Sandhill cranes at the Preserve?
Sandhill cranes usually begin to arrive around early October. The peak of their season at the Preserve is mid-December. They’ll begin to leave in early February and are generally gone by mid-March.
What time of day is best to see the cranes?
The cranes roost (sleep) in certain ponds at night and then wade and feed in other ponds during the day. Sunrise and sunset are great times to see the cranes flying out/in for the day. During the day, you’ll see many of them in various ponds around the Preserve. So, if you’d like to see them in flight, come during sunrise or sunset. If you’d like to see them hanging around the ponds, come during the day! Note, however, that parking lots are open from 9am-5pm and we suggest roadside viewing if you plan to view during sunrise and sunset.