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San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

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Address: 7376 S. Wolfsen Road, Los Banos, CA 93635
Phone Number:
08:00 - 16:00
Closed now
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Sun - Sat 08:00 - 16:00
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours

The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 26,800 acres of...

The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 26,800 acres of wetlands, riparian forests, native grasslands, and vernal pools. A thriving population of the endemic tule elk is showcased by one of three auto tour routes. The Refuge is host to significant assemblages of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and plants; some of which, such as the California tiger salamander, the long-horned fairy shrimp, and San Joaquin kit fox, are endangered species.

The Refuge is a major wintering ground and migratory stopover point for large concentrations of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other waterbirds. Large flocks of green-winged teal, northern shoveler, mallard, gadwall, wigeon, cinnamon teal, northern pintail, ring-necked duck, canvasback, ruddy duck, and snow, Ross’, and white-fronted geese swarm over the mosaic of seasonal and permanent wetlands that comprise a quarter of the Refuge. Waterfowl generally remain until late March before beginning their journey north to breeding areas. However, some mallard, gadwall, and cinnamon teal stay, breed, and raise young on the Refuge.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 36 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 16
  • 14
    Very good
  • 3
  • 0
  • 0

This place has a nice visitor center but the unconnected restrooms are still pit toilets. It's much more expansive than the nearby Merced NWR. If you're here to view wildlife... read more

4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 8 January 2017
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36 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 33: English reviews
Level Contributor
131 reviews
44 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 weeks ago

We did the driving part of the refuge so can't rate the walking trails. It was fun to see the Tule Elk with their huge antlers. They are in a fenced area so you are assured of seeing them. We didn't see very many birds. We were happy to see lots of Quail and Bush Rabbits.

Thank RosalieBelmont
Level Contributor
105 reviews
45 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 138 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 January 2017

This place has a nice visitor center but the unconnected restrooms are still pit toilets. It's much more expansive than the nearby Merced NWR. If you're here to view wildlife, bring binoculars, long camera lenses, and...patience. Go to eBird.org to see what people recently have spotted and try a leisurely stroll on a trail or two. In the Tule Elk... More 

Thank 0garibaldi0
SeanBrophy, Manager at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, responded to this review

Glad you enjoyed your visit! ADA accessible bathrooms with flush toilets and hand washing are located inside the Visitor Center and are open during Visitor Center hours of operation (8AM-4:30PM). Outside of VC hours there are pit toilet facilities next the VC and pit toilets on the West Bear Creek Auto Tour Route. More 

Salinas, California
Level Contributor
11 reviews
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 December 2016

Interesting exhibits inside in the building, but dress for mosquitos if hiking or you will be eaten alive.

Thank FritzConle
Ithaca, New York
Level Contributor
42 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 31 August 2016 via mobile

Beautiful refuge with platinum LEAD certified visitor center. They even allowed our dog inside, and the resident cat was friendly with her! Very interesting exhibits even though visitor area of building was small. Lots of hiking and driving trails. Great place to spend a couple of hours.

Thank Nancy S
Los Banos, California
Level Contributor
24 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 July 2016 via mobile

Great for bird watching and photography! A wide variety of fowl including an occasional swan or pelican. There are all kinds of birds, lesser egrets, great blue herons and the larger white egrets. Summer can get very hot and lots of mosquitos so use repellent!

1 Thank sharoncatania2015
Santa Clara, California
Level Contributor
134 reviews
67 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 55 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 9 May 2016

Visited with 2 families and 2 small kids 2 days ago, - Great visitor center, no question. helpful rangers. On saturday, may 7, there was almost no one except us in visitor center. Very modern place, new washroom facilities, exhibition. Worth spending 30-45min there. - Most of the place is accessible through 2 one way road loops. One covers Elks... More 

5 Thank M S
Level Contributor
38 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 23 March 2016

This is a fun place to visit with Elk, deer, Birds of all kinds and you can not beat the Fee. It is FREE. Everyone will enjoy this trip.

1 Thank Ferd B
Fresno, California
Level Contributor
8 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 November 2015

Yesterday was my second visit to The San Luis Refuge. I loved the small but interesting visitor center. In November, I was hoping to see sandhill cranes in the waterfowl area, but didn't at midday. However, I saw some early in the morning at the nearby Merced wildlife refuge. When you drive around the Elk area, there are mostly f... More 

Thank newtraveler14
San Jose
Level Contributor
93 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 58 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 October 2015

I recommend both the Tule Elk and Waterfowl auto tour. Each is about 5 miles and it is important to take your time, it is not a speedway. Birds and critters will pop up and scamper or fly up from the reeds. The Visitor Center is first rate is Leed Platinum. If you want to photograph, bring the longest lens... More 

Thank bigbasin
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 September 2015 via mobile

I especially liked the creek area and the bird life I saw. It is a peaceful place. Nice to see tge tule elk herd.

Thank vividnature

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