San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge


Typical landscape at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge
San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge
Wetlands at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge

For many years the 2,309-acre San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge was a cattle ranch on the Mexico-US border. This area is in the bottom of a wide valley where the Yaqui River has its headwaters. The US Fish & Wildlife Service bought the property in 1982 to protect the water resources and to preserve tiny fish like the Yaqui chub, Yaqui catfish, Yaqui beautiful shiner and Yaqui topminnow, natives of the area but on the verge of extinction.

There's a lot of history in this area, not much of it helpful for the plants or animals that are native to the region. Since coming into possession of the San Bernardino Ranch, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has been working to reverse that. A large part of their effort has been in restoring the wetlands, the streams, the ponds and the springs that used to make this valley a luxurious grassland interspersed with wetlands and ponds and crossed by riparian corridors.

These days, the invasive mesquite bosque is giving way to riparian scrub and marshlands. Now you can see green-backed and great blue heron again. There's also ringneck duck, Mexican duck, Virginia rail, magnificent and Costa's hummingbird, sandhill crane, blue grosbeak, yellow warbler, Gila woodpecker, whitecrowned sparrow, phainopepla, Swainson's hawk, zone-tailed hawk, gray hawk, peregrine falcon, sharp-skinned hawk, kestrel and golden eagle.

A pond on San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge

For mammals there's raccoon, coyote, gray fox, badger, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, coatimundi, kangaroo rat, javelina, mountain lion, bobcat, and mule and white-tailed deer. There's also plenty of snakes and lizards, including Gila monsters and western diamondback and black-tailed rattlers.

San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is open to hiking, bird watching and wildlife photography. Seasonal cottontail rabbit, dove and quail hunting are also allowed but there is absolutely no fishing. Camping and campfires are also forbidden.

Looking north from San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge
The view to the north at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge
Map of San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge