The green line painted on Pennington Road just outside of Gridley, California leads visitors down a country road, winding into one of California’s most populated bird sanctuaries: Gray Lodge. Some visitors mistakenly refer to it as “Gray Goose Lodge” due to the thousands of Snow and Canadian Geese that winter in this part of Northern California.
Gray Lodge Bird Sanctuary is somewhat of an irony. On one side of the reserve is an area referred to as “open”, and on the other, it is “closed”. The open side is available to hunters, while the closed side is home to dozens of bird and waterfowl species living in a protected bird sanctuary. The 9100-acre wetland preserve lies in the shadow of Sutter Buttes; an ancient volcanic remnant deemed the smallest mountain range on earth.
The first order of business as you drive in is to check in at the kiosk where the attendant will inform you of the path to take for best viewing. There is a loop for vehicles that winds around a three-mile drive, skirting the waterways and marshes. Along the way are several dirt-parking areas where you can get out of your vehicle, and hike. The trails are interconnected and roughly three miles total. Taking the hiking trails allows you to view wildlife up close. During rain the hard dirt road, and paths tend to be muddy making hiking somewhat difficult in winter and spring.
The hundred or so species of birds include Eagles, Snipes, Oriels, Owls, Nuthatches, Vultures, Hawks, Osprey, and Finches among many others. The varieties of waterfowl include Wood Ducks, Mallards, Egrets, Herons, Gulls and Cranes…over a million or so in all during the winter migration months. The marsh is also home to mammals such as beavers, rabbits, raccoons, and fox.
During the winter when the Snow Geese migrate the air fills with honking, quacking, and cawing of ducks and geese flying in to join other flocks already on the ground. The sound of rushing wings beating against the air in unison, floating down to the earth on a wave of feathers gives visitors a sense of the precision and power of their migration.
Tips for Gray Lodge Bird Sanctuary
–The park is open year-round
–Cost of entry $4 each person
–Free entry for anyone with a current CA hunting or fishing license
–Keep vehicle windows closed in order to avoid the mosquitoes
–Portable Restrooms are available
–Park is handicap accessible
–During the rain, the paths and roads are muddy
Gray Lodge Bird Sanctuary Hours and directions