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Woodbridge Ecological Reserve (AKA Isenberg Crane Reserve) - San Joaquin County
Phone Number: (209) 234-3435
From Sacramento/North, take Interstate 5 south to Peltier Road. At the bottom of the exit, turn left to Thornton Road where you will go right. Continue on Thornton until the stop sign at the corner of Woodbridge road. Make a right hand turn and travel west for approximately 2 miles to the turnout and lookout point of the reserve on the left hand side of Woodbridge road.
From Stockton/South, take Interstate 5 north to Turner Road. At the bottom of the exit, turn right to Thornton Road where you will turn left. Continue on Thornton until the stop sign at the corner of Woodbridge Road. Make a left hand turn and travel west for approximately 2 miles to the turn out and lookout point of the reserve on the left hand side of Woodbridge Road.
Where do we start for a self-guided tour?
The best place to start is the beginning, here at the South site of the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve. This part of the reserve is open every day of the year during all times of the day. You are welcome to travel out early in the morning to enjoy the awakening of a new day or wait until just before sunset, as local residents finish up their day and the birds begin to settle in for the night. Depending on the time of year, the sights and sounds are wonderful. Interpretive panels at the site provide you with information about the Sandhill cranes and other birds that use the reserve as their Fall and Winter home.
A portable toilet is available for use at the reserve. En route to Woodbridge Road or upon departure it may be advisable to stop for comfort in Flag City which is located just South at the junction of Highways 5 and 12.
When should we visit?
The best seasons to visit is during the fall and winter months (October - February). This is when you could expect to see sandhill cranes, Canada geese, snow geese, tundra swans and many other wintering birds. The sites and sounds are most spectacular during these months, in the early evening just before sunset. Bring along your favorite birding book and binoculars to help you identify the birds you are seeing. Remember, birds have a large personal space and will usually not land very close to where you are sitting or standing.You are welcome to come out to the reserve during other seasons of the year to see the local residential birds and wildlife. This would include the red-wing blackbirds, black-shouldered Kite and American kestrel, Ring necked pheasant, meadowlarks and other small songbirds. No matter what time of year you choose to visit, early morning and evening hours are usually the most rewarding.
Why is the Reserve on Woodbridge Road?
One of CDFW's objectives is to maintain ecological reserves and marine protected areas intended to conserve unique, fragile habitats, which can function to protect and restore rare and threatened native species. The greater sandhill crane population has diminished in California to a point where they were listed as a threatened species in 1983. The Stockton delta wetlands (inclusive of this reserve) provide the largest area of freshwater marsh wintering habitat in the state, not only for Sandhill cranes but for other waterfowl as well.
The South site of the reserve was purchased by CDFW in October of 1985 from the El Dorado Duck Club. The 145-acre Duck club was one of the only destination points along Woodbridge Road following the early Delta reclamation efforts. This site has 4 major ponds which are irrigated by water from Sycamore Slough during the winter months to provide fresh water habitat for the Sandhill Cranes.
This site at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is used largely by the greater and lesser sandhill cranes for roosting (sleeping at night). Other sites along Woodbridge road and in the nearby delta are used for feeding and loafing during the day. It is interesting to note that the greater sandhill crane seems to travel only within a 2 mile radius from the roosting site to their feeding grounds. During the spring and summer months the reserve is drained and allowed to dry out. During the days of the El Dorado Duck Club, cattle were brought in to use the land for grazing. Today, the Department of Fish & Wildlife allows the land to lay fallow and rest during this period. Large mowers pulled behind tractors are brought in during early summer to keep the height of the vegetation at a manageable level, creating an ideal upland grassland habitat.
Other locations on Woodbridge Road.
You might like to explore further west on Woodbridge Road, to see cranes and other birds feeding in surrounding farm fields (Woodbridge Road dead ends within 6 miles). If you choose to drive down the road looking at all the bird activity, we would ask that you please stay in your cars. Woodbridge road is a working farm road and during the fall large grain trucks move rather quickly down the narrow road. Your safety is very important to us and we would recommend the use of emergency flashers if you are moving slowly or pulled over on the road. Again, sunset is the prime viewing opportunity for "crane fly-in" during the fall/winter season.
NOTE: The North site of the Reserve which includes the crane viewing shelter can only be visited on a docent led tour. There is no trespassing into the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve or onto the properties along Woodbridge Road.