Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area


This wildlife area is comprised of several units totaling approximately 4,200 acres of tidal salt marsh, mudflats, coastal oak woodlands, and coastal scrub habitats. It is comprised of several units including: Petaluma River, Burdell, Bahia, Black John, Day Island, Green Point, Novato Creek, Point Sonoma, and Rush Creek. The Petaluma River Unit is the largest remaining natural tidal brackish marsh in California, supporting primarily pickleweed, cordgrass, alkali bulrush, and saltgrass.

The upland habitat in the area supports deer, raccoons, jackrabbits, and foxes, among others. Migratory bird species use the area most heavily during the fall and winter months, but many can be found year round. Wetland bird species include willits, curlews, dowitchers, night herons, and black-bellied plovers.

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

Recreational Opportunities

Boating Access Wildlife Viewing Fishing Hunting with Shotguns Waterfowl Hunting

Activities: wildlife viewing, birdwatching, fishing, and hunting

Hunting: Waterfowl, coots, moorhens, and rabbits may be present.

Type C: Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area does not require the purchase of a hunting pass for entry. Entry permits and/or passes or special drawing may be required for hunting on some Type C wildlife areas.

Facilities: No restrooms are available on CDFW property.

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.

Area History

The property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1979.

Bahia: The unit was originally diked off for agricultural use. CDFW partnered with adjacent land owner, Marin Audubon Society, to restore both properties. Post-restoration, the property now consists of tidal wetland, seasonal wetland, managed ponds, and upland habitat.

Black John: The unit was purchased to insure the area was preserved and managed for wildlife. The area is composed of tidal marsh and diked seasonal wetland.

Burdell: Burdell Unit is a diked off mainly freshwater, seasonal wetland along the Petaluma River just north of Gnoss Airfield. Runoff from the adjacent hills to the west provides the freshwater source to this unit.

Day Island: Historically, the unit was two islands surrounded by salt marsh. Long ago the area was diked and filled to create a land bridge between the islands and the proposed Black Point subdivision.

Green Point: Prior to acquisition by the Department, the unit was used to pasture dairy cattle for several decades. Tidal action was excluded by diking in the mid-1800s. Under Department management, slough channels have been reestablished, uplands developed, and tidal action restored to the area.

Novato Creek: The unit was part of the Novato Creek flood plain but in the mid-1800s was diked and had been used for production of agricultural crops.

Petaluma River: The unit was previously used as a duck club with minor pond management and water control. It is the largest remaining natural tidal brackish marsh in California.

Point Sonoma: This unit was purchased in 1978 strictly for wildlife management and protection of the environment. Approximately 3 acres along the eastern border was a mitigation transfer.

Rush Creek: The unit was diked off from tidal action in the early 1900s to facilitate agricultural use. In recent times the site has functioned as a seasonal wetland with cattle grazing during the dry season.

Petaluma Marsh WA - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


Bay Delta Region (Region 3)

Marin & Sonoma Counties

southeast of Petaluma

Access: Accessible by boat only via the Petaluma River.

Public Boat Launch Ramps:

Novato, Black Point: From Highway 37, take the Black Point exit. The launch is under the highway along the south side of the Highway 37/Petaluma River Bridge.

Petaluma, Petaluma Marina: Take the Highway 116/Lakeville Road exit. Go east on Highway 116/Lakeville Road, then turn right on Baywood Drive.

CDFW Lands Viewer