Adam Blauert

Blauert on Outdoors: Cosumnes River Preserve’s Boardwalk Trail a great winter destination

The American Kestrel is one of the many birds you may find at Boardwalk Trail at the Cosumnes River Preserve.
The American Kestrel is one of the many birds you may find at Boardwalk Trail at the Cosumnes River Preserve. Sun-Star correspondent

I received a few emails from readers who took my suggestion to enjoy the outdoors on New Year’s Day. Thank you for sharing your adventures. I enjoyed reading about them.

Andrea and I decided to try something new on New Year’s Day. We headed north to the Cosumnes River Preserve, just off Interstate 5 in southern Sacramento County. Like our local wildlife refuges, it’s a great place to see wildlife, and winter is one of the best times to go. There’s so much to do you can spend anywhere from an hour or two to an entire day there.

The preserve is an exciting place with wetlands, an extensive riparian corridor, oak woodlands, grasslands and marshes. Eleven miles of trails wind through these habitats. About 1½ miles of trail are universally accessible – it doesn’t matter if you have a wheelchair or stroller. The surface is paved or boardwalk. It has a fun, family-friendly, safe, welcoming atmosphere with abundant and easy-to-view wildlife.

The best destination for this time of year is the Boardwalk Trail. It leads into a seasonal wetland that is currently home to thousands of migratory birds. It’s a half-mile route that snakes among tules and ponds to a large observation deck. We saw a wide range of birds – northern shoveler, northern pintail, American coot, green-winged teal, greater white fronted goose, red-winged blackbird and black-necked stilt. We also saw an American kestrel in a tree overlooking the parking lot right after we got out of our vehicle. Adjacent to the Boardwalk Trail is a one-mile paved, accessible loop – the Lost Slough Wetlands Walk – another great choice for this time of year.

The Cosumnes River is unique among Sierra rivers because it doesn’t have any major dams. Although it’s a smaller river, the section in the preserve offers a glimpse of what our valley was like before intensive settlement by humans. The longest trail is the three-mile River Walk Trail loop, which provides access to the riparian corridor along the river. Because the river’s flow is mostly natural and this is an El Niño year, this trail may be underwater during much of the winter. For information about all features of the preserve, recreation information and trail maps, go to or call 916-684-2816.

The Cosumnes River Preserve is on the east side of I-5 at the Twin Cities Road exit. Drive east on Twin Cities Road and then turn south on Franklin Boulevard. Signs will point you to the parking area and starting points for the trails.

The Boardwalk Trail starts at the first parking area. The preserve is open daily, and there is no cost to visit. Regular events and activities are scheduled – check the website calendar for information.

Free national park entrance – Admission fees to national parks will be waived on 16 days this year in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. The first of these days is Monday, Jan. 18 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The other free admission days are April 16-24, Aug. 25-28, , Sept. 24 and Nov. 11. If you visit on any of these days – especially popular parks such as Yosemite – get there early to avoid crowds and use the shuttle (if available) to avoid losing your parking space. You can also get free admission to public lands if you happen to have a fourth-grade student in your family. For more information about that program, go to

Rim Fire reforestation – In a massive attempt to repair damage from the Rim Fire, the Stanislaus National Forest and Tuolumne River Trust plan to plant 90,000 trees this spring in the burn area, and they need help. If this sounds like something you might be interested in doing, meetings are being held throughout January to train volunteers. The meetings will be held in Sonora and Groveland, and individuals, groups and families are welcome. For information, call the Stanislaus National Forest at 209-532-3671 or the Tuolumne River Trust at 949-533-2346.

Adam Blauert: