Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, Calipatria

#302 of 479 in Wildlife in California
Wildlife Area · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is located north of the Mexican border at the southern end of the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley. Situated along the Pacific Flyway, the Refuge is the only one of its kind, located below sea level. Because of its southern latitude, elevation and location in the Colorado Desert, the Refuge experiences some of the highest temperatures in the nation. Daily temperatures from May to October generally exceed 100 °F with temperatures of 116°–120 °F recorded yearly.
The refuge was established as a sanctuary and breeding ground for birds and wild animals in 1930. In 1998, the refuge was renamed after Congressman Sonny Bono, who played an active role in trying to save the Salton Sea. Originally, it included approximately. Nearly 60 percent of the original acreage was an open saline lake with the remainder being shoreline alkali flats, freshwater wetlands, native desert scrub and upland (farm fields). Due to the inflow of agricultural effluent and a subsequent rise in the level of the Salton Sea, all of the original Refuge area has been inundated. At present, only about 2,200acre manageable remain suitable for farming and wetland development.
The topography of the refuge is flat, except for Rock Hill, which is located at the refuge headquarters. The refuge is bordered by the Salton Sea on the north and intensively farmed agricultural lands on the east, south and west.
The refuge is composed of two disjunctive units, separated by of private lands. Each unit contains managed wetland habitat, agricultural fields, and tree rows. The courses of the New and Alamo rivers run through the refuge, providing freshwater inflow to the Salton Sea.
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Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
65 reviews
  • We only had one day to explore. Need to have more time to do this area justice. My goal was to photograph Burrowing Owls. Got what I wanted!  more »
  • It was a nice short walk, about 2mi round trip. There is a flush toilet which is great, i didnt see the office area, but there is an observation deck that was nice and sturdy with binoculars. Down the trail you end up at the top of a big rock on a hill. It's very pretty and the views are nice. I gave it 4/5 stars mostly due to the smell, its right off the salton sea, and farmlands, which explains it, not because of the grounds themselves being gross or unkempt, it was very clean. The other part i found a bit lacking was the lack of maybe camouflaging some of the industrial machinery along the route. The route itself leaves something to be desired, but its still worth the trip. The ground is level enough for it to be a good jog, and the running water in the bathrooms is a huge plus, also there is a drinking fountain and ample parking. Oh, and rabbits!
  • Unbeatable view of the Salton Sea after a pleasant hike. There are many areas you cant enter due to wildlife- and it is better that way! You can spy many rare birds. I saw a roadrunner, a gambel’s quail and a nesting pair of burrowing owls. Look for plastic piping sticking out of the ground near the parking lot entrance. There is a sign above their burrow that warns you not to bother them.

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