Pristine and unique, the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge just south of Eureka is a world-class destination for bird-watchers and other nature enthusiasts. It was established in 1971 primarily because of its importance as wintering and stopover habitat for tens of thousands of migratory birds, but it is home to a great diversity of mammals, fish, amphibians, invertebrates and plants as well.
One important function of the wildlife refuge is to provide the public with high-quality opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife. A universally accessible deck and short boardwalk attached to the Richard J. Guadagno Visitor Center provide a wildlife observation area for all visitors, including those with severe mobility challenges. The Shorebird Loop Trail (1.7 miles round trip) adjacent to the visitor center is level, and made up of gravel and packed dirt. It features an observation kiosk and interpretive panels, and is open daily during visitor center hours. It is one of many hiking trails. Those who would rather explore the refuge by water can launch canoes and kayaks at Hookton Slough.
Peak wildlife-viewing season at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge is November through April. The climax is from mid-March through mid-April when upwards of 60,000 Aleutian cackling geese (also known as “Canadian honkers” and formerly called Aleutian Canada geese) stage their annual “fly-off.” The population of these birds has made one of the most astounding recoveries in the history of wildlife management, soaring from fewer than 800 individual birds in 1974 to more than 120,000 today.
The Richard J. Guadagno Visitor Center is open daily from 8am to 5pm (except on federal holidays) and has dioramas and an observation room equipped with telescopes. Binoculars and a “Discover Pack” that includes identification guides and magnifying glasses are available for checkout. Enjoy a solitary stroll over the various trails, or take one of the guided walks offered on the first Wednesday and second Sunday of every month. These walks leave the visitor center at 9am, and are completely free. Sorry, no dogs allowed in HBNWR.
Where: Begin at the Richard Guadagno Visitor Center, 1020 Ranch Rd. Take exit 696 off Hwy 101 (Hookton Road exit in Loleta) and take the Visitor Center access road north and east 1.3 mi. (google map)
More Info: 707-733-5406 | FWS.gov