Places to Bird in El Dorado County and Beyond


Foothill Birding Locations

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Brown's Ravine - Brown's Ravine is part of the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.  It is on the south shore of Folsom Lake.  It can be accessed from Green Valley Rd. between Folsom and El Dorado Hills.  The woods along the trail between the Marina and the earthen part of Folsom Dam to the west is home to woodpeckers (Acorn, Downy, Nuttall's, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Red-brested Sapsucker), songbirds (Lesser Golfinches, Oak Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Spotted Towhee, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing), and raptors (Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk).  Varied Thrush is present in the winter.  The lake sees loons and grebes during the winter.  Parking: There is a large parking lot near the boat ramp, a small amount of parking spaces at the boat marina, and shoulder parking near some picnic tables.

Bass Lake - Bass Lake is used to store water for the El Dorado Irrigation District. It is located on Bass Lake Rd. between Highway 50 and Green Valley Rd. Access to the lake is restricted but birds can be seen from roadside turnouts with binoculars or a spotting scope. Winter finds many waterfowl species here including Mallard, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Canad Goose, and Greater White-fronted Goose. Other species seen here are Turkey Vulture, Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, Killdeer, and Lark Sparrow.  Parking:  There is a gravel pullot on the lake side of this busy road. There is also an adjacent park with a gravel lot that is accessible from Serrano Parkway.


Deer Creek - The creek crosses Latrobe Rd. about five miles south of highway 50.  You can walk the railroad tracks to the west.  It follows the creek for the first half mile or so.  This area is good for songbirds in the spring.  Western Screech-Owl has recently been seen here.  Eventually the tracks and trail leave the creek and extend into open area where grassland species and raptors can be found.  Golden Eagle is reliable here.  Please note that you will have to ford the creek on two railroad trestle bridges.  Best time to go is in the spring.  Parking:  There is a gravel parking area (west side) a few hundred feet south of where the road passes over the creek.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park - Located in Coloma on Highway 49 between Placerville and Auburn. This park is the site of James Marshall's discovery of gold in 1848. There are historic buildings, a museum, mining apparatus, and a monument to Marshall above the town on the hillside. The area is woodpecker heaven. Tons of Acorn Woodpeckers can be seen in the trees. Red-breasted Sapsuckers and Northern Flickers (red-shafted) are also present. Other species include American Robin, Brewer's Blackbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Scrub-jay, Canada Goose, Oak Titmouse, Western Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-breasted Nuthatch.  Parking: There are paved parking lots throughout the park but there is a state park fee.

Dave Moore Nature Area - Located a mile or two north of Coloma along Highway 49 it features a short loop trail that leads to the south sork of the American River and back.  The north arm is handicapped acccessible.  Birds here are typical of its foothill habitat.  Western Scrub-jay, Mourning Dove, Oak Titmouse, and Lesser Goldfinch can be found in the oaks and pines.  At the river look for Common Merganser.  Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks can be seen soaring overhead in the middle of the day.  Parking: There is a large dirt and gravel parking lot.

Greenwood Creek - Located a few miles north of Coloma along Highway 49 the access point was formerly known as the Straza property.  The trail follows the south fork of the American River from its confluence with Greenwood Creek.  A good variety of birds can be found here: waterfowl species in and along the river and songbirds in the brush.  Yellow-breasted Chat has been seen and heard in the willows.  Swallows and Wrens are common and nest in tree cavities.  Beware of ticks in the high grass in the spring.  Parking:  There is a paved parking lot.

Cronan Ranch - Located several miles north of Coloma on Pedro Hill Rd. just off of Highway 49 it features a grassland trail down to the south fork of the American River.  There is a small marsh along a creek with Red-winged Blackbirds.  Western Meadowlark, Western Bluebird, and Western Kingbird are common.  Yellow-billed Magpie are also present which is notable as this species prefers the lower elevations of the Central Valley.  Raptors include White-tailed Kite, Red-tailed Hawk, and Turkey Vulture.  There are some old wooden buildings near the river.  The trees around the buildings harbor Bullock's Orioles.  Black Phoebe can be seen flycatching from perches on the buildings.  There is little shade on most of the hike so deep summer is not the best time to visit.  Parking:  There is a large gravel parking lot.  Be aware that it is often full of horse trailers.


Old Flume Trailhead - Located four miles north of where Highway 49 crosses Highway 50 in Placerville.  It is also known as Red Shack as this building is across the Highway from the trailhead.  This is a steep trail down to the South Fork of the American River.  Most of the trail is wide and shaded.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl has been reported here.  Parking:  There is a gravel parkign lot on the east side of Highway 49.

Mormon Island Preserve - Technically on the border of Sacramento and El Dorado counties, this preserve is a small wetlands area located below the Mormon Island Dam. Species seen here include Red-shouldered Hawk, White-tailed Kite, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Mallard, Green Heron, and Black Phoebe. Turkey Vultures can be seen overflying the adjacent grasslands and oak hillsides. A cemetery is located just east of the preserve that includes remains relocated as a result of the flooding of Folsom Lake.  Parking:  There is no parking on the preserve side of the road.  There is parking in the state fee area across the street near Folsom Lake. Alternatively one can drive up to the nearby parkway and park on the side of the road.

Sweetwater Creek - Sweetwater Creek flows into the South Fork of the American River as it is forming one arm of Folsom Lake. There is a trail that follows the creek. The trail is accessible from Salmon Falls Road a few miles north of Green Valley Road in El Dorado Hills. A ribbon of trees and other foliage line the banks of the creek which flows through dry chaparral. Songbirds can be seen and heard along the creek. Typical birds include flycatchers, grosbeaks, towhees, and finches. Lazuli Buntings can be seen here. Raptors include Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures flying above the canopy and Cooper's Hawks seen in the canopy.  Parking:  There is a dirt pullout in front of the gate at the trailhead.  It can only accomodate a few cars.  Additional parking is on the shoulder along this busy road.


Acorn Creek - About three miles (north) past Sweetwater Creek along Salmon Falls Rd.  The American River Conservancy acquired this property and put in the trail improvements.  There is an oak canopy along the creek.  The trail switchbacks up the hillside and joins a large tract of chaparral at the top.  The best time of year to visit is Spring.  Yellow-breasted Chat and Lawrence's Golfinch have been found here.  Parking:  There is a large gravel parking lot for the trailhead with a small fee for parking.

New York Creek - Located in El Dorado Hills, this creek flows north to Folsom Lake. A hiking trail parallels the creek on the east side. The trail can be accessed at the south end off of St. Andrews Dr. just east of El Dorado Hills Blvd. The trail runs north to Art Weisburg Park. Typical birds in this stream-side habitat include Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Spotted Towhees, Bushtits, Oak Titmouse, Acorn Woodpeckers as well as various sparrows and goldfinches.  Parking:  There is a paved parking lot at the north end of the trail near a school.  There is also a small paved parking lot at the south end of the trail associated with some medical and dental offices at St. Andrews Dr.

Serrano - Also located in El Dorado Hills, this trail runs along the man-made wetlands (mitigation for the surrounding housing developments) just west of Silva Valley Parkway on the south side of Serrano Parkway. Typical birds here are Red-winged Blackbird, Green Heron, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Hooded Merganser, and Common Moorhen.  Parking: Parking is on the side of the road on Silva Valley Parkway or across the intersection in a lot associated with the El Dorado Hills library branch.


Cameron Park Lake - A small lake smack in the middle of Cameron Park a little north of the golf course at Cambridge Rd. and Royal Park drive.  There is a mile long gravel trail around it.  Best time to go is in the winter when a variety of waterfowl is there.  Note that this place can be a bit busy due to fishing, picnics, and walkers/joggers.  Has been plagued by invasive Mute Swans in recent years.  Parking: There is paved parking but there is also a fee from mid-spring to early fall.

El Dorado Trail - A multi-use trail built over railroad routes.  There are currently three paved sections: one in El Dorado, one in western Placerville and one between eastern Placerville and Camino.  There is an unpaved section accessible from Amber Fields in Shingle Springs.  The El Dorado section has trail access at a railroad depot on Oriental Street.  The Western Placerville section has a trailhead on Missouri Flat Rd. south of Highway 50.  This trail section is approximately 2.5 miles long and ends on Forni Rd.  Typical birds are woodpeckers (Acorn, Downy, Nuttal's, Northern Flicker), Western Scrub-jay, Bushtit, Towhees, etc.  Wrentits have also been seen here as well as a wintering Townsend's Warbler.  Parking:  There is a small paved parking lot at the Missouri Flat trialhead and a gravel lot at Oriental Street and Amber Fields.

Wakamatsu Colony Farm - Site of an historical silk and tea farm near Coloma.  Also the first Japanese colony in the U.S.  In addition to being a historical site it is a working farm with an adjacent large pond and adjoining oak tree studded grasslands.  Songbirds, water birds, and raptors are abundant.  A recent bird walk in March netted 50 species.  The American River Conservancy is a partner in the farm and habitat restoration.  This location is only open to the public for certain events.  Check the American River Conservancy calendar.  Parking:  Parking is on gravel lots.


Traverse Creek Botanical Special Interest Area - An area of chaparral and serpentine soil with special plants adapted for it.  It is located near the intersection of Meadowbrook Rd. and Bear Creek Rd. off Highway 193 just south of Georgetown.  Chapparal specialties like Wrentit and Blue-gray Gantcatcher can be found here.  There is a loop trail that ascends into forest of Ponderosa Pine and Gray Pine that attracts Warblers in migration.  Parking:  The access roads are paved but the parking area is gravel and dirt.


Folsom Lake Peninsula - Located at the end of a peninsula between the north and south forks of the American River entering Folsom Lake.  It is about a nine mile drive on Rattlesnake Bar Road from Pilot Hill on Highway 49.  The road is narrow (think 1.5 lanes) and ends at a State Park (fees required).  There is a boat ramp and campground here so it can be crowded on weekends.  The oak woodland habitat and birds are very similar to Beals Point.  Late April is an excellent time of year as there are breeding migrants arriving and non-breeding migrants lingering.  Songibrds, raptors, and water birds are present.  Go during the week and you might have the place to yourself.


Kanaka Valley - BLM (Bureau of Land Managment) has property the public can walk and bird.  Take Deer Valley Rd. north from Green Valley Rd. (west of Cameron Park).  About two miles north the road splits.  Continue straight onto Kanaka Valley Rd.  The road turns sharply to the right after a mile or so.  The trails cover the oak grasslands adjacent to a large chaparral area.  Songbirds, woodpeckers, raptors, and wild turkey are present.  The best time to go is in the spring but note that there are sometimes turkey hunts here.  Parking:  There are dirt parking spaces at the sharp right turn.


Sierra Birding Locations

Crystal Basin - Crystal Basin is an area north of Highway 50 off of Ice House Rd. There are several lakes including Ice House Reservoir and Union Valley Reservoir where a pair of Bald Eagles have nested since the mid-1980s. Typical montane species are here including warblers, nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers. The brush and vegetation along streams associated with the reservoirs are particularly birdy.  Parking:  There are paved parking lots at the reservoirs and dirt/gravel pullots at some road intersections and campground entrances.


Granite Springs Road - Technically part of Crystal Basin but often a separate birding trip (Sacramento Audubon).  On the west end it is an unsigned right hand turn off of Ice House Road just as it summits into Crystal Basin.  The is level for a few miles up to a large forest service pullout.  After that it ascends into rocky scrub and eventually connects to Wright's Lake Road.  The eastern section of the road was historically rough however the road has recently been renewed.  The dead snags at the forest service pullout are good for woodpeckers like Lewis' Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker etc.  Common Nighthawk and Golden Eagle have been seen from this road.

Sly Park Recreation Area - Sly Park Recreation Area surrounds Jenkinson Lake and is located a few miles southeast of Pollock Pines near the intersection of Sly Park Rd. and the Mormon Emigrant Trail. Canada Geese and Stellar's Jay are common. Mallard, Common Merganser, Spotted Sandpiper, Western Tanager (summer), American Robin can also be found here. There are three hiking trails to bird from: Miwok, Liberty, and Park Creek. Miwok Trail is a short loop trail. Liberty Trail runs along the north shore of the lake. Park Creek Trail hugs the eastern shore and leads to a waterfall.  Parking:  There are paved parking spaces spread along the road around the lake.


Fleming Meadows Trail System - An extensive mixed use trail system two miles southeast of Sly Park.  Hikers must share it with equestrians and moutain bikers but many of the trails are dirt roads.  Often less crowded than the nearby Jenkinson Lake.  Hairy Woodpeckers are found here as well as Mountain Chickadee and Common Raven.  Black-headed Grosbeak is present in the breeding season.  Parking:  There is a roundabout parking area at the end of a short paved road that will hold about 20 cars.

Lake Tahoe Visitor Center - The Lake Tahoe Visitor's Center is located on Highway 89 a few miles north of Highway 50. There are several trails to bird from in the area. There is a loop trail in the Taylor Creek meadow. There is a stream profile chamber along the trail. Other trails lead to the lake shore and Tallac Historic Site. Birds to be found here include Stellar's Jay, Black-crowned Night-heron, Canada Goose, Forster's Tern, and Red-winged Blackbird, Brown Creeper, various woodpeckers, Willow Flycatcher, Dark-eyed Junco, Osprey, and Bald Eagle.  Parking:  There is a large paved parking lot at the Visitors Center.  Bear in mind this is often full in Summer as there are beaches and historic sites nearby.

Wright's Lake - Wright's Lake is located about eight miles north of Highway 50 at the end of Wright's Lake Road. It is a shallow lake which is slowly turning into a meadow. Montane species such as Stellar's Jays, Mountain Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and various woodpeckers can be found here. Red-tail Hawks and American Robins are also present.  Parking:  There are small paved parking lots along the road around the lake.


Upper Truckee Marsh - Located where the Upper Truckee flows into Lake Tahoe just east of the Tahoe Keys.  In addition to marsh species and waterfowl, shorebirds can be seen here particularly if the water level is low.  Parking:  Access is from the end of residential streets such as San Francisco Ave. off of Highway 50.


Outlying Birding Locations


Have you found an injured bird or other animal?

For El Dorado County contact

Sierra Wildlife Rescue

(530) 621-4661.

For the Sacramento area contact Wildlife Care Association

(916) 965-WILD.

Have you found a bird band?

Please report the number to the USGS Bird Banding Lab.

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