Ron Horii's Bay Area Back Pages - Bay Area Biking
San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge - Newark
Newark Slough at San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Slough east of refuge HQ
 Bridge over Newark Slough  Riviere Marsh east of refuge HQ

The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge covers 19,000 acres around the edges of the South Bay from Redwood City to Fremont. The refuge is named after Congressman Don Edwards, who introduced legislation that established the refuge. It was established in 1972 and celebrated its silver anniversary in 1997. At the time, it was the first refuge in the country to be established in an urban area. By 1979, the refuge had acquired 18,000 acres of land, of which 15,000 were obtained from the Leslie Salt Company (now the Cargill Company). The refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its purpose is to "preserve and enhance significant wildlife habitat in South San Francisco Bay; to protect endangered and threatened species; to protect migratory birds; and to provide opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study."

Refuge visitor center and Tidelands Trail Displays in refuge visitor center
Tidelands trail going uphill, view of refuge HQ/visitor center Displays in refuge visitor center

The headquarters and visitor center for the refuge is in Newark, south of Hwy 84. The visitor center building is an impressive multi-story wooden structure built on the side of a rocky hill. It provides panoramic views of marshlands to the east and salt ponds, sloughs, and the Bay to the west. Outside are viewing platforms with interpretive signs. Inside are exhibits on the wildlife, ecology, and history of the area. There's also a bookstore, auditorium, restrooms, and an observation deck.

North side of slough to east of refuge HQ South end of slough east of refuge HQ
North end of Riviere Marsh east of refuge HQ, view from hill  South end of Riviere Marsh and Marshlands Road east of refuge HQ

The Tidelands Trail starts from the Visitor Center and climbs up to the top of the hill that the center sits on. At the top is an overlook with views of the whole area. To the east, you can see Riviere Marsh at the foot of the hill. The marsh is bounded by roads and criss-crossed by trails. Farther east, you can see civilization lapping at the shores of the marsh, as new industries and homes spread from Fremont and Newark towards the Bay. The Diablo Mountain Range, capped by Mission Peak, forms a backdrop to the east.

Newark Slough west of refuge HQ South bridge over Newark slough below refuge HQ
Newark Slough and salt ponds on west side of refuge, view from hill above HQ View of Newark Slough, bridge, and salt ponds southwest of refuge HQ

On clear days, you can see the Bay from Alviso to Mountain View to San Franciso and the Coyote Hills to the north. You get a good vantage point to see the sloughs, salt ponds, and trails in the area. The trail leads down the hill. At the bottom, you can take the fork to the left to go to paved Marshlands Road. If you continue straight at the junction, the trail loops back and follows along the base of the hill on the north bank of Newark Slough.

Hunter's cabin and view of refuge HQ hill Canoeing on Newark Slough
Duck hunter's cabin, with refuge HQ on hill in back Canoeing on Newark Slough west of refuge HQ

There are two wooden bridges over the slough, both leading to the long Newark Slough Trail Loop that runs along a salt pond levee. Newark Slough is navigable by canoes and small boats. There's a boat-launching ramp on the south part of Newark Slough off Marshlands Road. The north bridge between the Tidelands Trail and the Newark Slough Trail is near an old duck hunter's cabin. In front of it are interpretive signs about the history of duck hunting in the area.. Nearby is a picnic shelter built on stilts. If you continue following Tidelands Trail, you can take it to the pavilion of the Newark Slough Learning Center and an outdoor amphitheater.

View of salt ponds, Hwy 84, and Coyote Hills Hwy 84 overcrossing
View from HQ looking towards Coyote Hills Pedestrian bridge over Hwy 84 to Coyote Hills

Marshlands Road is nearby. Marshlands Road is the main road for the refuge, leading to the visitor center from Thornton Avenue. It also leads past the visitor center for 3 miles, paralleling Hwy 84, and ends up at the old Dumbarton Bridge, now used as a fishing pier. Near the refuge parking lot on Marshlands Road is a foot and bike path that leads to the pedestrian overpass over the Dumbarton Bridge toll plaza. This leads north to Coyote Hills Regional Park.

South of the refuge, snow-white hills rise above the Bay. These are not natural formations. They are salt piles at the Newark plant of the Cargill Salt Company. Commercial salt production on San Francisco Bay goes back to the 1850's. There were dozens of small companies making salt around the turn of the century, but salt production eventually consolidated into one company: The Leslie Salt Company. In 1978, the huge 130-year old Midwestern conglomerate, Cargill Inc., purchased the Leslie Salt Company, which gave them ownership of the salt ponds in the Bay Area and in Australia. Many of Cargill's salt ponds lie within the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but the company retains salt-harvesting rights. For more on salt pond trails, see my pages on Alviso, Sunnyvale Baylands, and Shoreline at Mountain View.

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Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 11/27/98