There are many activities available. Jump to Watching Wildlife, Kayaking, Walks & Hikes, Fishing, Hunting

Watching Wildlife

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 to conserve, restore and protect habitat for endangered species and migratory birds that use the estuary for resting, feeding or as a wintering stop during their Pacific Flyway migration.  Fall, winter and spring offer the best opportunities to observe concentrations of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and raptors.

Dawn and dusk are the best times to see wildlife, while the tidal cycle influences when shorebirds can be seen probing intertidal mudflat. Ducks feed in shallow water, and osprey, terns, pelicans and cormorants dive for fish. 

Raptors, such as red-tailed hawks, white-tailed kites, northern harriers and American Kestrels, are abundant from November through February. They can be seen hunting over the refuge’s marshes and on adjacent agricultural fields. By May, most of these migrants move north to nest, while residents and visitors from the south nest on the refuge. 

Nesting species on the refuge include black-necked stilt, mallard, and gadwall. Migrant nesters from the south include Caspian terns and barn swallows. A sharp observer may spot a peregrine falcon pursuing a shorebird on the edge of the bay or perched on the Highway 37 – Napa River bridge.  Osprey can be observed carrying fish to their nests on Mare Island from approximately March through August.

Use binoculars or spotting scopes for a closer look.  Quick movements and loud noises will scare away most wildlife. Staying quietly in one location will let wildlife adjust to your presence. Many animals that have hidden will reappear once they think you are gone. Be aware of sounds and smells. Often you will hear more than you will see. Look for traces of animals including tracks, scat, feathers and nests that tell interesting stories. Please leave this evidence for others to observe. 

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Explore the wetlands by water! A boat dock with easy kayak access is located at the Cullinan parking area. Be sure to check tides to avoid getting stuck in the mud and wear a personal floatation device to keep your adventure safe.

Here’s a LINK to a map to help get your bearings

Click here to view Tides information.

Be aware of strong currents during tidal changes at the breach area so you don’t get swept out into the Napa River.

Walks & Hikes

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers multiple hiking trails. Dogs/pets are not allowed on the trails except for the 1.3-mile Sears Point Trail. 

See more about the trails on the US Fish & Wildlife website.


In September 2018, the Refuge’s Recreational Sport Fishing Plan was approved to allow recreational fishing in the open bay and navigable sloughs and in the Cullinan Ranch Unit and Dickson Ranch Unit. The Refuge has never been officially opened to recreational fishing before (through the Federal Register, 50 CFR Part 32), however, fishing by boat has occurred on the open bay and navigable sloughs prior to and since the Refuge’s establishment in 1974.

Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System. Fishing opportunities are provided at the fishing pier at the Cullinan Ranch Unit along with a 1,600-foot section of shoreline, or bank, in the vicinity of the pier (Fishing Map for Cullinan). All other fishing in the Refuge is allowed from a boat. See “Boat Access” in the Waterfowl Hunting section above for a description of boat launch areas nearby. No commercial fishing is allowed. 

Learn more on the US Fish and Wildlife website.


Did you know we had public access hunting right here in San Pablo Bay?  Adjacent to the refuge on Cullinan Ranch you’ll find everything from canvasbacks and bluebills to teal and honkers.  

In September 2018, the Refuge’s Waterfowl Hunting Plan was approved that added two additional units of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge that are open for waterfowl hunting on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Cullinan Ranch Unit and Dickson Ranch Unit are open for waterfowl season and will add 2,170 acres of the Refuge that are available to hunt.

Learn more on the US Fish and Wildlife website.

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