California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Things to do at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Kiosk at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

General Information:

Contact Information: Hunting, fishing and general information: Main Office (530) 846-7500 Wildlife watching, tours, educational programs and events: Naturalist Office (530) 846-7505

Hours: Sunrise to sunset.

Fees: A day use pass is required for Public Access. The cost is $4.32 person. Fees are waived for visitors under 16 years of age OR a valid CA hunting, trapping or fishing license earns you a day pass to Gray Lodge.

During waterfowl season hunters require a daily permit. Check wildlife area regulations for current fees.

Closures: Gray Lodge is closed to all non-hunting activities from two weeks before waterfowl season on the area to one week after waterfowl season on the area, except for the designated wildlife viewing area, which is open on most days during the entire year. This includes a driving route and nature trails. Fishing is available at the Avis Access only during this closure.


Gray Lodge is a "Type A" Wildlife Area requiring a Type A one-day, two-day or season permit/pass. A valid CDFW hunting license is required.

Ammunition Restrictions: A hunter shall not possess more than 25 shotgun shells while in the field during the waterfowl season.

Camping and Trailers: Allowed only during the waterfowl season. Trailers may be placed no sooner than one week before the beginning of waterfowl season on the area and must be removed no later than one week after the close of waterfowl season on the area. Cab-over campers cannot be left without a vehicle attached! All trailers must be registered at the checking station within one week of placement.

Waterfowl/Coot/Moorhen/Snipe: Hunt days are Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays during open seasons.

Pheasant/Quail/Rabbit: Hunt days are daily during the first nine days of the pheasant season. Thereafter, during the regular pheasant season, pheasant hunting is allowed only on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. Rabbit and quail hunting are only allowed on pheasant hunt days.

Dove: Hunt days are daily during the September dove season and only on waterfowl or pheasant hunt days during the late dove season. Dove hunting is allowed only in designated portions of the wildlife area.

Deer: Hunt days are only during the Gray Lodge Deer Hunt under special permit, zone G-12, issued by drawing.

Falconry: Hunting with falcons is restricted to the east side of the area. Hunt days are Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays during falconry season.

Turkey: Hunt days are Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays during open fall season. Turkey hunting is only allowed on pheasant hunt days.


A valid CDFW fishing license is required. Check fishing regulations for current licensing fees. Licenses are not available on the Wildlife Area.

Visitors can enjoy many fishing opportunities at Gray Lodge with its ponds and miles of canals supporting bass, sunfish, perch, catfish and carp. All fishing is from the shore in accordance with general fish regulations. The area is open to fishing seven days a week. From two weeks before waterfowl season to one week after waterfowl season, fishing is restricted to the Avis Access only.

Kids Fishing Derby: Generally held in May, a one-day catfish derby is held for children ages 15 and under. Call Gray Lodge for details about this year's event.

Wildlife Viewing

With a backdrop of the world's smallest mountain range, the Sutter Buttes, Gray Lodge is the perfect site for viewing and photographing nature. Reflective ponds, grassy fields and wooded riparian areas provide food, water and shelter for more than 300 species of resident and migrant birds and mammals. Although wildlife is abundant throughout the year, Gray Lodge is famed for the incredible number of waterfowl experienced by visitors in the fall and winter months. Migrating ducks can be seen as early as August. The vocal snow geese begin their arrival in October, the beginning of our peak visitation season. By December, as many as a million ducks and a hundred-thousand geese can be found resting in our sanctuary. By this time, the waterfowl have greatly depleted the available food on Gray Lodge, causing them to leave this daytime resting ground in search of food. Occurring at dusk, this "night-flight" is another incredible experience. The best waterfowl viewing tends to be late November through early February, on crisp, clear days. Binoculars and a field guide are useful, but not essential. Check out the Seasonal Wildlife Viewing Guide.

Year-Round Attractions:

  • Wildlife Museum: This wildlife exhibit room contains many taxidermy species of birds and a few mammals found on the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area.
  • Self-guided Nature Trail: The Wetland Discovery trail will take you along transition zones of ponds, grassy fields and wooded riparian areas. This paved trail leads you to a wildlife viewing platform, sloped for the mobility impaired, which overlooks a seasonal pond. Although it is less than a mile, round-trip, most visitors find this relaxing trail takes over an hour to complete.
  • Wildlife Observation Hides: Gaze through windows to see our Central Valley wildlife in a minimal disturbance setting. The species diversity changes through the seasons, and often include; shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds and deer. Overlooking two of our seasonal ponds, these buildings can provide great opportunities for viewing and photographing wildlife. One Hide, is located near Parking Lot #18. The other is a short walk down our graveled Flyway Loop Trail. Many visitors find this a comfortable and rewarding experience.

Mid-February through September: From one week after waterfowl season on the area to two weeks before waterfowl season, wildlife viewing is permitted by walking, bicycling, or from your vehicle. For those that like to experience the sights and sounds of nature on foot or by bicycle, there are over 70 miles of maintenance roadways. Visitors must stay on the roadways. The fields and ponds are for the wildlife. Driving routes are located on the 3-mile Auto Loop and other main roadways only. All main roadways terminate in numbered parking areas. Pets are allowed on a leash less than 10 feet in length or in a motor vehicle, except where prohibited. Some areas are closed to the public.

Peak Season Viewing: From two weeks before waterfowl season to one week after waterfowl season, generally October through mid-February, wildlife viewing is restricted to a designated viewing area only.

  • AUTO ROUTE: For those who like to remain in their cars during these cooler months, we have a 3-mile auto-loop that winds through the heart of the designated viewing area. To limit wildlife disturbance, all visitor must remain in their vehicles on this route during our peak visitation season.
  • WALKING: If you prefer to leave your car behind, we have a 0.6-mile self-guided nature trail. Complete with a booklet, this trail leads you to a wildlife viewing platform, sloped for the mobility impaired. Another option is our 2-mile graveled, levee trail, which meanders by the edges of seasonal and permanent ponds. All peak season walking routes originate out of parking lots #14 or #18.
  • GUIDED TOURS: Guided public walks are available Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30pm, unless raining, through the peak viewing season. No reservations are needed for groups under 12 persons. Tours take about 1-1/2 hours. Call the Naturalist Office for more details.
  • PHOTOGRAPHY: Many photographic opportunities are available from the walking trails and Auto Route. Two viewing hides create a unique opportunity to set up equipment out of the weather, capturing images of wildlife in their wintering habitat, through opening windows.
  • BICYCLING: Bicycles are only allowed on the paved, Rutherford Road during peak season.
  • PETS: Pets are allowed on a leash less than 10 feet in length or in a motor vehicle, except where prohibited.

Educational Tours/Nature Study

Educational Tours at the Gray Lodge Wildlfie Area

Bring your class or group to Gray Lodge to learn about wildlife and the wetlands. We offer guided tours, stationed environmental education, kits for the classroom and self-guided opportunities. All programs can be linked to state standards. Call the Naturalist Office for information or to make a reservation.

Educational Tours and Programs Guide (PDF)

Organized youth or school groups may request an exemption from the day use fees for tours and events, and must coordinate with the appropriate department office. Please allow 7-10 business days for request processing.


Enjoy a picnic on the Wildlife Area. From parking lot 14, find picnic tables with good views of the Area. To preserve the health of Gray Lodge wildlife, please don't share food with the animals.