This article appeared in The West Sacramento News-Ledger on September 9, 2015. Note. This post contains additional photographs not available in the newspaper. Scroll down to see the article:
The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring The Yolo Bypass — Writing and Photographs by Thomas Farley
If you want to get outdoors but don’t have much time, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is a perfect place to go. It is essentially the entire area visible from the Yolo Causeway and its main entrance is only three miles from West Sacramento. You’ll see birds of all kinds, an unusual, intensely managed landscape, and you’ll experience a relaxing break from city pressure. The noise of Interstate 80 barely registers, and you’ll soon find yourself lost in exploring.
The Bypass has three main roles. The first and most important is flood control. To relieve pressure on Sacramento River levees in heavy rain years, the 16,700 acre Bypass is allowed to flood.
The second role is to encourage wildlife and habitat. After water recedes in the Bypass, or whenever the ground is dry, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the property. Rice is planted, seasonal and permanent wetlands are maintained, and grasslands are cultivated, all to increase the numbers of waterfowl and other birds.
The third role is education and recreational use. Fish and Wildlife partners with groups like The Yolo Basin Foundation to promote that end. Heidi Satter is the Foundation’s Education Coordinator. Each year she helps to organize and conduct dozens of field trips to the Bypass for schoolchildren across our region. What better way for them to experience wildlife and wetlands so close to home?
Take the signed auto tour route to experience the many elements of the Bypass. It makes a complete loop of open areas, along with interesting side roads. Bring binoculars, water, and a day pack; you may be tempted to park your car to investigate the many foot trails.
Annual flooding of ponds is now occurring in preparation for waterfowl season. Located in the heart of the Great Pacific Flyway, the Yolo Bypass will soon play host to countless thousands of birds as they migrate from north to south.
Dove season is currently running until September 15, so certain areas may be closed. (Hunting remains an activity as it has for decades, however, this use is controlled and permitted only in specific areas.) Guided monthly tours start on October 10, from nine to noon. But you are welcome to drive the Bypass roads yourself at nearly any time of year.
Going? Check the information boards posted at the site since not all areas are open at all times. Downloading a map is highly recommended. Dogs are only permitted in the Bypass from the Causeway to the railroad tracks. Hours are dawn to dusk year round.
To get to the Bypass, go west on Interstate 80, take the first exit, turn right at the stop sign, and then loop underneath the highway on East Chiles Road toward the signs. The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters is located 1.9 miles further down on Chiles. It’s past the Yolo Fruit Stand and the soccer fields at 45211 County Rd 32B. Open weekdays.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife page on the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (external link)
Yolo Basin Foundation (external link)
Map of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (external link in .pdf)