San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Trail
2.65 Miles
N/A
N/A
(2.00)3
(2.00)
(3.33)
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N/A
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Sonoma
Sonoma
More Info
Photos
The mud flats near the parking area were popular with foraging birds. Paradise View Vineyard lies in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The trail is mostly utility road used by refuge staff for maintenance. The mountains of Marin lie in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The trail along Tubbs Island looking west with San Pablo Bay on the left. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Cougar Mountain in the distance is the location of the Sonoma Raceway. Looking north from the south shore of Tubbs Island. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Headed north back to the trailhead from Tubbs Island. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Tubbs Island lies to the left. Mud flats separate it from a separate unnamed landmass to the right. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone hikes along the spur trail that shoots off to the east of the main trail. We startled two deer from the brush along the creek to the right. They took off across the hay field at high speed. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The remainder of a lingering fog comes off the water at Sears Point. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Most of the trail at Sears Point is flat and straight with grasslands to the north and newly reconstructed marshes to the south. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The trail passes right by what may be the southernmost vineyard in Sonoma County, and the closest to the bay. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
A view from the trail looking towards the mountains in Marin County, including Mount Tam. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Cougar Mountain seen in the distance from the trail. Red-winged blackbirds loved the high grass on the right. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
A view of the rougher Sonoma Baylands Trail. Looking west towards the Sonoma Coast and Marin County. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Log Entries
Mapping some missing segments
By Austin Explorer on 5/20/2018
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 6.11 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 44 minutes

Coppertone and I were looking for something flater and easier after our Hood Mountain Transect last week and flat is definitely what we got here.  There were also a few trail segments we hadn't yet hiked that I wanted to map.

We set off from the Lakeville Road trailhead, which seems by far the best bet this part of the wildlife refuge.  There's a reference to parking down near Port Sonoma, but the parking area here is well used and easy to get to.

Our first leg was going down what we'll call the HQ Trail leading towards the cluster of buildings near Highway 37 that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses to help manage the property.  The path along here is very well maintained gravel.  Though one field of grassland had been recently cut others are left to grow high grass that red winged blackbirds in particular seem to love.  They were almost a contstant companion on this trail.  Turning around at the cluster of HQ buildings we were led for some distance by a killdeer who mocked injury as she coaxed us farther away from her nest nearby.

At the junction of trails near the train tracks we then headed west along Sonoma Baylands Trail.  We had saved this segment for last because we had high hopes that it would be the better of the two.  The trail surface is a seldom used jeep trail that is a bit overgrown in places.  Unfortunately, the rougher path did not translate into much better opportunities for wildlife viewing.  Low tide may have dried out some of the marshy areas to the south during our visit, limiting the number of ducks and other waterfowl one might normally see.

One thing we did see in terms of wildlife was bird egg shells and a couple of bird parts along the levee path.  We noticed that these kill sites seemed to correspond with the very large nest perched at the top of one of the high tension power line poles that cross the area.  We could see some movement in the nest, but we did not have binoculars and did not spot anything coming or going during our hike.  Perhaps mother and father pick apart whatever game they've captured within view of the nest before heading home?

The turnaround point near Port Sonoma corresponds with a jeep trail that loops around and crosses the train tracks.  It's not obvious exactly where the parking is a little further down the road.

A grand total a 6.11 miles and almost no elevation gain.  A welcome relief from the mountain climbing from last week!

Sears Point out and back
By Austin Explorer on 3/11/2018
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.71 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 53 minutes

For our second visit to San Pablo Bay NWR Coppertone and I headed to the flat and straight Sear Point area to hike along a section of trail that was relatively recently opened to the public.  Termed the "Eliot Trail" on some maps produced by the refuge the path we chose today sat atop a levee that paralleled the railroad tracks that run through the area.  To the north some fields continue to worked but mostly for hay production these days I believe.

To the south are the wetlands that have been recreated on what used to be acres of productive farmland.  Now water, marshes and small dots of dry land sprinkled about provide shelter and feeding grounds for a large number of birds, the wildlife refuge's main customer.  From a hiking standpoint there's nothing here that's particularly gripping.  The trail is very flat and straight.  There are a few views of far off mountains such as Mount Tam and Mount Diablo is the weather permits.  But the reason for the refuge to begin with and the added interest for hiking here are the birds.

We're not birders by nature but we spotted Seagulls, Canada Geese, Egrets, Hawks, Red Wing Blackbirds, Plovers, Ducks, Terns.  The list would be longer if we had enough knowledge to differentiate the ducks and others from each other.  Suffice to say, if you like birding, you'll like hiking here.

Despite there being numerous signs indicating that dogs are not allowed on the unpaved trails in the refuge, about half of the people we encountered had dogs. One dog in particular had gotten quite muddy and wet by launching itself into the shallow muddy flats reconstructed to serve as shore bird habitat, not a doggy playground.  I'm sure the refuge personnel are stretched given current funding issues, but some enforcement of the rules is called for here.

Tubbs Island Trail
By Austin Explorer on 9/4/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 7.91 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 1 minute

Coppertone and I picked the trail down to Tubbs Island because it got down to the coast of San Pablo Bay and we figured a bit over 6 miles sounded about right for today.

As expected, the trail was almost entirely flat.  There were some good views of the mountains in Marin and in the East Bay off in the distance.  The birding was actually best right at the parking lot as large flocks of avocet and other species were poking around in the mud flats here.

The noise from the nearby Sonoma Speedway was an almost constant companion, but a good part of the trail was behind a berm that blocked part of the noise.

In the past the trail circled Tubbs Island once it got to the coast.  According to the NWF notices, this was no longer possible due to some channels that had opened up between the marsh in the center of the island and the Bay.  But there appears to be some culverts that were put into place recently and we were able to pass over what must have been the channel before.  The problem is that the reeds were so thick soon after that the trail seems to just disappear, so we turned back.

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