About the Refuge
First established in 1970, the first lands for the refuge were acquired in 1974. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge exists to conserve, restore, and protect bay wetlands for threatened and
endangered species and migratory birds. It operates under the mission statements of the Department of the Interior, U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, and San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established to serve as a sanctuary for migratory waterfowl. The Refuge
currently consists of 13,190 acres of open water, salt marsh, upland habitat, and agricultural lands. It represents the
last great expanse of open space in the San Francisco Bay Shore Zone. The Refuge is managed by the USFWS. Current visitor
activities in the Refuge include bird watching, limited seasonal hunting, fishing, hiking, and photography.
In the future, the Refuge will purchase additional lands for endangered and threatened species, such as the California
clapper rail, the salt marsh harvest mouse, and the California brown pelican. Ultimately, many of the current and additional
lands of the Refuge will be restored to seasonal or tidal wetlands for purposes of providing migratory birds with a natural
wetland habitat. Planned future amenities of the Refuge will include a visitor contact station, development of an active
educational program, and implementation of additional hiking trails. These planned amenities will be constructed to comply
with the overall mission of the Refuge.
Vehicle access to the Refuge is limited to several informal and limited size parking lots along State Route 37 (SR 37),
that cuts through the southern boundary of the site along the San Francisco Bay.
The refuge headquarters is located in the City of Petaluma, California, off Hwy 37 between
Lakeville Hwy and hwy 121.
Figure 2 shows the location of the Refuge.
Location of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The Refuge occupies approximately 13,190 acres in the northern San Francisco Bay Area adjacent to
unincorporated and incorporated land in Solano, Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties. The USFWS main offices have moved to
their new location off Hwy 37 in Petaluma.
Mission and Goals of the National Wildlife Refuge
The USFWS prepared the Refuge Management Plan in 1988. This plan was prepared in direct response
to the dramatic loss of wildlife habitat in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Refuge was established under authority of the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and was officially established in 1970, and the first lands were acquired in 1974. The
primary mission of the Refuge is to serve as a sanctuary for migratory waterfowl. The Refuge provides visitors with
activities such as bird watching, hunting, fishing, hiking, and photography.
Visitation Levels and Visitor Profile
The Refuge accommodates a variety of different year-round activities including hunting, hiking,
boating, bird watching and wildlife observations, and photography. Dog walking and camping is not permitted on Refuge
public lands. Visitation is active in the fall and spring months as birders come to observe migrating birds. (The Refuge is
part of the Pacific Coast Flyway.) Hunting on a few limited parcels is also an activity during the fall and winter months
in the Refuge.
Tolay Creek and Tubbs Setback are currently the only public access points to the Refuge.
Visitors can access this area for hiking, hunting, boating, and birding. There is a parking lot available for up to 6
vehicles. Activity at the Refuge increases every January with the advent of the San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival with
up to 3,000 visitors participating in this event held over a weekend. This event has been held since 1998 in one of the
old Naval Buildings on Mare Island.
Read about the Tubbs Setback Restoration here.