- The San Luis NWR is comprised of 7,340 acres of intensively managed wetlands, native grass uplands and riparian habitat. The tree-lined Salt Slough and the meandering San Joaquin River nearly enclose the lush grasslands of this refuge. Canals and water control structures take advantage of the natural topography to produce marsh plants/seeds required by the wintering waterfowl populations.
Although 95% of the Central Valley's wetlands have been drained and converted to agricultural use, the migration patterns of migratory species have not changed. The birds continue to fly their ancient routes and crowd into the remaining wintering habitat in the San Joaquin Valley.
San Luis NWR was acquired to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl. Located within the Bear Creek, Salt Slough, and San Joaquin River floodplain, this refuge hosts a myriad of tree-lined channels and oxbows.
Hundreds of thousands of mallard, pintail, green-winged teal and ring-necked ducks flock into the managed wetlands, while the colorful, yet secretive, wood duck lives throughout the tree-lined slough channels. Herons and egrets nest in majestic oaks and willows, then feed on the refuge's abundant fish, frog, and crayfish populations. A wide diversity of songbirds, hawks, and owls also utilize the refuge habitat.
Recreation - There are two self-guided auto tour routes and three hiking trails with several observation platforms along the way. San Luis NWR is recommended for those seeking duck concentrations, especially mallards and green-winged teal. The refuge also hosts a herd of magnificent tule elk which are visible from the auto tour. Pheasant hunting is permitted on a portion of the refuge on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the hunting season. Fishing for channel catfish, bullheads, striped bass, carp and black bass is also permitted.
Climate - A generally warm, dry climate prevails in the Central Valley. It is hot in the summer, mid in the winter. In the Central Valley, precipitation falls mainly from October through April. Winter temperatures well below freezing produce frost, however, snow is very rare. Summer temperatures above 100 F are part of the normal pattern.
From Highway 152 in Los Banos, take Highway 165 (North Mercy Springs Road) north 8 miles, then northeast 2 miles on Wolfsen Road to the refuge.
The Kesterson unit's public access point can be reached by driving 4 miles east of Gustine on Highway 140.