register help

Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR, CA

no permit
34 1 0
Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Inland
3 of 5 by 1
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Multi-Loop 2 miles
Trailhead Elevation -231 feet
Elevation Gain 10 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 2.05
Interest Peak
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
9  2016-01-18 gummo
14  2016-01-17 gummo
11  2014-12-08 gummo
Author gummo
author avatar Guides 7
Routes 0
Photos 10,457
Trips 175 map ( 788 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location mesa
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Nov → 7 AM
Sun  5:28am - 5:47pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Birds keep chirping rhythm to the brain!
by gummo

Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (or Reserve) was formed in 1930 so migrating birds can rest and nest there in the winter and return up north for the summer. It was re-named to honor Sonny Bono because he dedicated a lot of his time and energy into saving the Salton Sea. Temperature commonly reach over 100F from May to October and can reach 120 in summer.

The refuge has about 375 bird species that come yearly and some are permanent residents. The refuge claims to have up to 30,000 snow, Ross's, and Canadian geese that come annually, along with 60,000 ducks of various species (how did they keep count?). Birds commonly seen are mallard ducks, coots, egrets, blue herons, sandhill cranes, snow geese in large numbers, American kestrels, turkey vultures, ospreys. The refuge is not connected and is in select areas along the Salton Sea, mainly in the southern region. The refuge contains a series of wetlands, marshes, and canals with high grasses and surrounded by farmland. The nearest town to the refuge is Brawley. Frogs can be heard croaking year-round and mosquitoes could be a problem in warm mornings and nights.

Common activities at the Salton Sea are boating, fishing (tilapia is the most common fish in the Salton Sea due to the fact that it can tolerate high salinity), birding watching, hunting, sight-seeing, and picnicking. Educational center and decks are in the area for the public.

Check out the Triplog.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your birding observation to support this local community.

2014-12-10 gummo
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Review
    Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Name: gummo (the 2nd "m" in my name is silent)

    Mood: jolly

    Mission: Test out the new camera, try to find some new species, and check out Sonny Bono's Birding Spot.

    Route: Cibola - :next: Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR - :next: Anza Borrego Desert State Park

    Weather: 78-82F (no jacket required)

    Song: The Beat Goes On by The Screamers (

    Confession: If another hiker on the trial asks me if I've seen any snakes, my answer is always, "no."

    Highlights this trip: 1) Watching the sandhill cranes do their thing at Cibola. 2) Watching California tree frogs do another thing at Anza Borrego. 3) Hearing the story of the elusive panther at Cibola's visiting center (more on that later).

    Highlights from 2014: 1) Seeing 2 bobocats at Cibola. 2) hiking Bryce Canyon NP 3) hitting San Simon (Snake) Valley 4) Photographing a mink in PA. 5) Standing amongst a herd of bighorns at Anza Borrego Desert State Park in October.

    21 new species seen in 2014: Western Tanager, California tree frog, Montezuma quail, Walking stick (in AZ), Mink, Verdin, Sharp-shinned hawk, Utah prarie dog, Black phoebe, Cowbird, Pied billed grebes, Canyon tree frog, Mediterranean gecko, Black-headed snake, Wood frog, Saddled leaf-nosed snake, Antlion, Say's phoebe, Brown crested flycatcher, Mearns rock lizard, & Goldeneye.

    Regrets of 2014: 1) Not re-visiting San Simon Valley in October. 2) Not bringing an extra memory card to the Pinaleno Mtns. 3) Not going to the Santa Ritas.

    Random Thought Of The Day: How come people get multiple sclerosis but never get just one sclerosis? And shouldn't it be called multiple scleroses? :-k


    I've been looking to go to the southern area of the Salton Sea for a while, but either time, lack of energy, or the heat stopped me from going there. Lots of birds reside there and not a lot of visitors go there, at least in the area I was at (north on Vendel Rd). The visitor's center is in a different area. Lots of marshland, mud pools, dirty, farmland, and high grass.

    I did a long loop from Cibola to the Salton Sea to Desert Anza Borrego and back home. I hit Cibola NWR at 7am with a lot of cloud cover, which made photographing a bit more challenging. The sandhill cranes and mallard ducks were out of in full force. I didn't see as many geese as I did in my previous visits.

    The ranger at the visitor's center told me a story that there was a female panther (jaguar) that was spotted in the area with her cub. She told me a couple was walking in the area and heard growling in the grass. The wife moved the grass to discover a small panther cub. The mom was spotted too on a separate occasion.

    I would like to believe this, but females usually don't cross the border into the US and don't have extensive ranges like the males. Also, if she saw the jaguar cub, in the age where everyone has a camera phone, she would have taken a picture. No one goes to Cibola without a camera. That's like going to the grocery store without any money.

    My next visit, on the same day, was Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR. It's a lot like Cibola but not as big and lush. There are definitely more snow geese there; there were thousands of them in the distance. The birds here were more shy and would take off when you get within 200ft of them, so I assume people hunt here. In Cibola, you can get within a 100ft of the bird at times. I plan to return in the spring when I have a chance to see some reptiles.

    I camped out at Anza Borrego Desert State Park. I was tired but the frogs were croaking and keeping me up, so I had to investigate. I saw dozens of them croaking, mating and swimming, along with the pupfish. In the morning, I asked the rangers what these frogs were. No one knew what they were or never saw them before, which was odd to me because they were noisy and abundant and some of the rangers have worked there for years. I looked in up when I got home and saw they were California tree frog, which are supposed to be inactivity this time of year, and I assume that this was not mating season.

    I hiked Anza Borrego DSP to look for some bighorns, but did not see any and ran out of time. The trip was short and I need to plan another one when I have more time. The photos are posted but not linked to this triplog or description, because I can't figure out how to link them, but I'm sure HAZbot will come to the rescue and fix and make everything right.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To birding observation
    Various ways to get to the different areas of the refuge.

    To the visitor's center:
    From East Interstate 10, take South Highway 111 (Niland).

    At the stop sign, turn right. At the stop light, turn left (Highway 111). Turn right onto Sinclair Road. Head west until you see the refuge sign.

    From East Interstate 8, exit onto Forrester Road. Head north. Forrester turns into Gentry Road. Continue north until you see the refuge sign.
    page created by gummo on Dec 10 2014 8:01 pm
    3 pack - loud whistle
    safety first
    help comment issue

    end of page marker