The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is located north of the Mexican border at the southern end of the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley. Situated along the Pacific Flyway, the Refuge is the only one of its kind, located below sea level. Because of its southern latitude, elevation and location in the Colorado Desert, the Refuge experiences some of the highest temperatures in the nation. Daily temperatures from May to October generally exceed 100 °F with temperatures of 116°–120 °F recorded yearly.HistoryThe refuge was established as a sanctuary and breeding ground for birds and wild animals in 1930. In 1998, the refuge was renamed after Congressman Sonny Bono, who played an active role in trying to save the Salton Sea. Originally, it included approximately. Nearly 60 percent of the original acreage was an open saline lake with the remainder being shoreline alkali flats, freshwater wetlands, native desert scrub and upland (farm fields). Due to the inflow of agricultural effluent and a subsequent rise in the level of the Salton Sea, all of the original Refuge area has been inundated. At present, only about 2,200acre manageable remain suitable for farming and wetland development.GeographyThe topography of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR is flat, except for Rock Hill, which is located at the refuge headquarters. The refuge is bordered by the Salton Sea on the north and intensively farmed agricultural lands on the east, south and west.Make Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge a centerpiece of your Calipatria vacation itinerary, and find what else is worth visiting using our Calipatria trip builder.
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josch1122March 5, 2017
This is a unique place. The Salton Sea was created by accident. Struggling to survive ever since. The sea is a rest stop for millions of migrating birds. Two nice areas (a good distance apart) to wand... more »
DulciTravelerFebruary 6, 2017
If you enjoy birdwatching, particularly waterfowl, this Reserve is definitely worth the visit. In February one sees thousands of snow geese, red-winged blackbirds, and hundreds of sandhill cranes. Plu... more »
JaaucaJanuary 19, 2017
Don't go without binoculars. In December there are masses of birds migrating through. There is an interesting visitor's center and a cactus garden. more »
Adam LitsterNovember 24, 2016
Salton Sea truly is a relic that is worth visiting. It's rich with history of how we dealt with an accidental lake. It's eerily the best place to see how the animals there are adapting (dying).
Krzysztof BDecember 26, 2016
Great for bird watching. Take a walk to the Rock Hill and admire the peaceful views and hundreds of birds.
Cynthia parkerOctober 4, 2016
I love the beauty of this place especially in Jan. -Feb. All the migrant birds can be seen feeding, and it's not crowded with people. Travel to and from the area is uncrowded and peaceful.
Alan WatsonFebruary 14, 2017
If you like birding, this is a great place to view migratory birds
Jare BearAugust 17, 2016
I don't know what this guy below is talking about. Clearly his brain was a little fried from the heat. This place is critical to the survival of the migratory birds that fly through into Mexico and further south. Come in the winter time and you will see hundreds of thousands if not millions of birds flying south a day! It is beautiful. The preserve plants fields of alfalfa and other grains so the geese migrating have a place to eat. The Salton Sea is pretty much the only water for migrating birds to stop by on this leg of the route from the artic all the way to Mexico and South America. If he read the informative signs and stopped at the visitors center he could of learned that 90% of all North American bird species can be found right at the reserve or in the surrounding valley. And for other people complaining about flies?! Are you kidding? Bird eat flies without them no food. Go back inside your little city bubble until you grow up and realize wherever there is water there are insects, and where there are insects there are lizards, birds and other creatures to eat the insects. Have you ever learned about ecosystems or the food web? And as for all the dead fish you will find on the coastline of the sea. That is not due to toxic water it is because there are too many damn fish! This water is cleaner and safer than most lakes in the state. The dead fish are a good sign of an extremely healthy population some would say too healthy in the Sea. Do your homework and stay away from the Sea if you cannot enjoy nature and wildlife and know the reasons this place is around and why it is so critical to 90% of N. American bird species!
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