Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
Zuma Press Inc./Alamy

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
This birder’s paradise sits quietly off the road into California’s capital city

The corridor along I-80, heading from the Bay Area into Sacramento, is home to scenic farmland—as well as this restoration project in Davis that attracts countless waterfowl, hawks, and songbirds.

The area began with very pragmatic goals: The Yolo Bypass is a flood control structure in the Yolo Basin floodplain, which dates to the early 1900s, whose levees carry any overflow from the Sacramento River to its delta. In the past, the Yolo Basin stretched out over 80,000 acres, and was home to roaming herds of tule elk.

Farming and development took its toll over the years, shrinking the space for the wild creatures. But since the 1990s, when the area was designated an official wildlife area, it has been a more visible part of the Pacific Flyway, attracting ducks, geese, and other migratory birds, as well as herons, egrets, ibis, shorebirds, songbirds, and hawks.

Today’s 16,600-acre wetland is more than just a restored space for birds passing through, however. About 4,000 acres of the space is currently farmed for domestic and wild rice, much of which offers a winter buffet for migrating ducks and geese.

The wildlife area is open year-round for bird-watching, and hunters are allowed on private pockets of the area for waterfowl and pheasant during their respective hunting seasons. From October through June, come to the wildlife area for the monthly tours—part driving, part walking—led by a docent carrying a spotting scope for closer looks at the birds. During February, the Wildlife Area’s Duck Days invites families to learn about ducks and even fish for trout in the ponds.

Or, come during the summer to see a different kind of winged creature: About 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats live here under the Causeway. “Year-round people visit to see the diversity of birds, but in the summer we’re known for the bats,” says Corky Quirk, an educator with the Yolo Basin Foundation. “We conduct tours throughout the summer to watch them fly.”

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_HERO_CV_PacificStar_UPick3_Flippen_1280x642_sized
Laura Flippen

Central California

Discover the Central Valley

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area vca_maps_centralvalley
12
November
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
32°
High
6°
Low
Dec - Feb
16°
High
3°
Low
Mar - May
28°
High
7°
Low
June - Aug
36°
High
16°
Low

California’s heartland offers up one of the state’s most authentic and sensory-rich experiences, a chance to see—and taste—the state’s bounty at every turn. Follow oak-shaded country roads to farm stands overflowing with fresh produce, and meander along wine trails to some of the state’s most productive vineyards and low-key tasting rooms.

Peaches, plums, apricots, and tomatoes—just some of the ultra-fresh produce you will find at farm stands throughout the valley.

Throughout the broad valley, stretching for over 400 miles/644 kilometers down the middle of the state, are cities and towns rich with history, international culture, and “everyone’s welcome” charm. 

 

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VC_SolanoCounty_Stock_RM_BH5GAT_1280x640
Derrell McCain/Alamy

Best Kept Secret: Solano County

See why this Central Valley region holds its own in terms of good wine, pretty countryside, and cool activities

A treasure awaits about 20 miles east of Napa, in a lovely but largely “secret” area of sprawling countryside and bayfront beauty. This is ...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T7_IMG_7643_1280x642
Lake Berryessa, located just outside of Winters, has a sunken city underneath it called Monticello.
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area T1_VCW_D_T1_CV_PacificStar_UPick1_Flippen_sized
Laura Flippen

Farm Stands & Farmers’ Markets

Sample fresh, seasonal produce and artisanal foods and chat with local farmers

This fertile valley stretches for some 450 miles from roughly Chico south to Bakersfield—the pancake-flat belly of California. Farms and ranches...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T11_CV_Davis_FarmersMkt_Farnum_sized
Alex Farnum

Davis

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the perks of this ag-oriented college town

Eco-friendly, liberal leaning, progressive, impressive professor’s homes and fraternity houses—Davis has the hallmarks of a classic American...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_SI_FarmersMarket_T4_CV_DavisFrmMkt1_Flippen_preview_686x885
Laura Flippen
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area HagginMuseum_CV
Laura Flippen

Haggin Museum

Local history merges with world-renowned art at this must-see museum in Stockton’s Victory Park

Housed in an early-19th-century brick building, this handsome art and history museum is the centrepiece of Stockton’s stately Victory Park. The 34...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_TI_7_Hero_CV_SunflowerField_Flippen.jpg_1280-sized_downsized_0
Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area SundialBridge_1280x642

This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T9_Buck Owens Crystal Palace 4_sized

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

April

One of California’s premier universities, University of California, Davis, invites everyone to its annual open house—a chance to learn, play, touch, taste and enjoy all aspects of the leafy campus...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area UCDavisPicnicDay_preview_686x885
Courtesy of U.C. Davis College of Engineering
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area vca_maps_centralvalley
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area GreyLodge_KG_1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Some 300 species of birds and mammals make this a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts

Located on the Pacific Flyway 60 miles north of Sacramento, Gray Lodge encompasses 9,200 acres surrounded by agricultural flatlands and...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T7_IMG_7643_sized_0
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Houseboating

Take to the water on a deluxe floating home

In California, it’s hard to talk about houseboats without talking about the Central Valley. One of the state’s premier places for holidaying in a...

November

Honour the harvest season at this remarkable, family-friendly event, hosted at the beautiful Full Belly Farm in the fertile Capay Valley. The valley, north-west of Sacramento, has one of the world...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Hoes_preview_686x885
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area vca_maps_centralvalley
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T2_Delta_Manley_sized
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

California Delta

A boater’s and fisherman’s paradise awaits

Located north-east of the San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—the major waterway from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T6_Lodi_Visitor-Center-Front_1280x642_downsized_0
Dale Goff Photography

Lodi Wine Country

Sample big, bold reds and eco-friendly winemaking

Best known for big red wines, particularly old-vine Zinfandels, this American Viticultural Area 100 miles east of San Francisco is also a leader...

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area FF_VCW_D_CV_T8_Fresno_Manley
The 10 acres of rooms, passages and gardens at Fresno's Forestiere Underground Gardens were excavated by hand using only farming tools.
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area VCW_D_CV_T9_Buck Owens Crystal Palace 4_sized
Courtesy of Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Bakersfield

Experience California’s oil-rich history, with Basque food and country western music on the side

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield has...