Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area

Sunrise on Napa Slough and Napa River
Sunrise on Napa Slough and Napa River
Photo Courtesy of Karen Taylor, CDFW


The Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area is approximately 15,200 acres of baylands, tidal sloughs and wetland habitat. Many waterfowl species and shorebirds including the California Ridgway's rail can be found here. Most of the area is accessible by boat only, though some areas can be accessed from land.

This area is regularly used by hunters, fisherman, bird watchers, photographers, and hikers. It is comprised of the following units: Huichica Creek, Napa River, Southern Crossing, Ringstrom Bay, Wingo, Tolay Creek, Sonoma Creek, White Slough, Green Island, and American Canyon.

Please consult the Wildlife Tour Guide (PDF) for a description of the wildlife at each unit.

For more information, please contact the Bay Delta Region Fairfield office at (707) 428-2002.

Recreational Opportunities

Fishing boat Ramp Wildlife Viewing Hiking Trails Hunting with Shotguns Waterfowl Hunting Restrooms

Activities: fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, hiking, and hunting

To best appreciate this area, one needs to use a small boat or kayak and navigate the many sloughs that circulate through the interior of the marsh. Consult local tide tables for the best (and most safe) boating opportunities to tour the area. Also please be aware of waterfowl hunting activity during the months of October through January each year.

It is highly recommended that you print out a map and become familiar with it prior to visiting.

Bird List (PDF)

Facilities: Restrooms are available at Huichica Creek, Green Island and Napa River (Pond 1) Units.

NOTE: Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with all regulations pertaining to the use of Department lands.

Refer to the Public Uses on State and Federal Lands section of the Waterfowl, Upland Game, and Public Use Regulations (PDF) booklet for both statewide and property-specific regulations.

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You may not operate a drone on CDFW Lands without a Special Use Permit.

Hunting Opportunities

Waterfowl, coots, moorhens, quail, snipe, rabbits, pheasants, and doves may be present.

Type C: Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area does not require the purchase of a hunting pass for entry. Entry permits through special drawing or applications are required for Junior Hunts.

Hunt days are Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays during open seasons for authorized species, except rabbits may be hunted daily during the September dove season.

To view which zones/units are open or closed for hunting, please refer to the Hunting Areas Map (PDF) and American Canyon Unit Waterfowl Hunting Map (PDF).

Junior Hunt: Each year the wildlife area sponsors a youth pheasant hunt. Permits will be issued by drawing. To be eligible, youths must possess a valid Resident Junior Hunting License. Check with CDFW to find out dates for the hunt (typically November). Any vacancies after the drawings will be filled on a first-come, first served basis through applications.

Questions concerning these special youth hunts should be directed to Karen C. Taylor, Associate Wildlife Biologist, at: (707) 944-5567 or

Area History

Originally one of the richest wetland ecosystems in the nation, the San Francisco estuary once comprised over 4,600 square miles of habitat ranging from open water mud flats to tidal salt, brackish, and fresh water marshes to associated upland grasslands and riparian areas. This area was of global importance to the millions of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl that used it, as well as the resident populations of mammals, fish, and crustaceans. Unfortunately, since the first Spanish explorers arrived, over 90% of these wetland habitats have been dramatically altered or destroyed. At the northern edge of San Pablo Bay, the Napa, Sonoma, and Solano County tidal marshes have changed from an area once over 90 square miles to less than 50,000 acres presently.

The Napa River Unit was first leveed off (diked) from San Pablo Bay during the 1850s for hay production and cattle grazing. Embankment construction continued for several years and much of the land was converted to salt ponds in the 1950s for salt production through the solar evaporation of bay water. The area was designated as a Wildlife Area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1953. In the early 1990s, Cargill Salt Company stopped producing salt in the ponds on the west side of the Napa River and sold the evaporator ponds to the State of California, which assigned ownership and management to CDFW.

Consult the History Tour Guide (PDF) for a history of each unit.

Restoration Projects

Restoration of the Napa River Unit has long been a vision for local resource agencies, conservationists, and planners. It is one of the largest tidal restoration projects on the west coast of the United States, and one of many restoration projects throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Current projects in the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area focus on the restoration, enhancement, and development of the wetlands. A diverse ecosystem of tidal salt and brackish marshes, managed salt marshes, and ponds with some fresh water and seasonal wetland components is the final objective.

Approximately 11,000 acres of this property is comprised of former evaporative salt ponds, levees, and accreted tidal lands purchased from Cargill Salt Division in 1994 and 2002. These ponds are part of two extensive restorations involving many different partners including both state and federal agencies, The Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration and the Napa Plant Site Restoration. The main focus of the restoration efforts is to reclaim former tidal marsh areas that were originally leveed off many years ago, however, several ponds will remain, managing water depths for the benefit of many avian species, especially shorebirds.

For the most recent information on the status of the salt pond restoration efforts in Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, please go to the Restoration Project website.

Wildlife Area Contacts

If you have any comments or other suggestions for helping us improve our lands or website we would appreciate hearing from you.

Laureen Barthman-Thompson
Senior Wildlife Biologist

Associate Wildlife Biologist

Heather Hlusak
Fish and Wildlife Habitat Assistant
Phone: (707) 226-3641

Report Poachers and Polluters: 1-888-DFG-CALTIP

Map of Napa-Sonoma Marshes WA - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


Bay Delta Region (Region 3)

Napa, Sonoma, & Solano Counties

just north of San Pablo Bay, primarily between the Napa River and Sonoma Creek

Please consult the Directions Tour Guide (PDF) for directions to the wildlife area’s various units.

Public Boat Launch Ramps:

Vallejo: next to Brinkman's Marine
Hudeman Slough*: in Sonoma County, on Skaggs Is. Road, 1 mile south of Ramal Road
Cuttings Wharf: in Napa County, on Cuttings Wharf Road, south of State Hwy 12/121

*The Hudeman Slough ramp is accessible with a key issued by the County Regional Parks Department, available by calling (707) 565-2041. For more information, see the County Parks website.

Topographic Maps: Detailed 7.5-minute quadrangle maps are available through local map dealers or the US Geological Survey. For this area, see "Sears Point" and "Cuttings Wharf".

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