Hudeman Slough Hike
By Austin Explorer on 10/4/2021
Distance: 3.46 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Coppertone and I ran across this trail (Hudeman Slough) during a bike ride we took a few weeks ago. The kiosk near the trailhead clearly indicated there was a trail here but it was so weathered and opaque one wondered whether it was still officially open to the public. It largely looked abandoned. We made a note and promised to return.
Later in the day I tried to find some information about it online with little success. It is part of the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area under the auspices of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The WA page shows a map that includes a trailhead marker at Hudeman Slough, but that's about it. Though the kiosk has been neglected the covered picnic tables at the trailhead actually appear in pretty good shape, so someone must be coming by now and then to check on things.
The map shown at the kiosk shows a 2.5 mile balloon trail through the Budeman Slough Unit of the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlilfe Area with another smaller spur trail leading to the adjacent Ringstrom Bay Unit. We started off walking along overgrown singletrack dirt trail leading to Ringstrom. It seemed to peter out about a quarter mile from the start, which seemed about right based on the map. Though it may be possible to go a bit further you'd really be getting to the water's edge in short order. At least there's water here!
We doubled back to the trailhead and then started on what we thought would be the Budeman Slough Nature Trail balloon loop. Unlike the path to Ringstrom, the trails here sit atop berms and retaining structures for several catchment basins. They're all clear of vegetation and surfaced with gravel, making for easy walking. Though on flat ground there are unobstructed views for miles due to a lack of tree cover. Mount Tam was clearly visible in the distance as were numerous other peaks.
One could be forgiven asking where are the marshes in this so called marsh area. The Ringstrom Unit exhibited some but the marshes in the Budeman Slough Unit were all dried up, a product of the time of year of our visit and the long standing drought the entire state is facing. So rather than seeing wading birds we had to settle for those living amonst the dried out reeds and the crows and hawks circling overhead. We did spot a couple of killdeer flying along a drainage ditch though.
When the trail crosses a narrow bridge the nature trail is supposed to perform a loop and lead back to this point. We venture to the right but won't end up back here. The maps show the trail turning left when getting to a gate at one of the two effluent ponds with higher berms on the property. But we saw no such turn and the path up the pond seemed the only option other than turning back. Later investigation on Google Maps shows no sign of a trail to the left either. We ended up circling the pond and then heading east along the edge of the other pond back to the trailhead.
Effluent ponds sounds pretty gross, but it's not as bad as you might fear. The water looked green but there was almost no smell. We finally saw a couple of swans and a good number of smaller wading birds in them. So it must not have been too bad.
There are a few extra trail segments we missed out of mapping due in part to the disprecency between the official park maps and the facts on the ground. We'll try and time our next visit when we're likely to see some marshes and the birds that go with them.