Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Merced National Wildlife Refuge


(209) 829-3508

Map Directions

Things To Do


Merced Refuge, located in California's northern San Joaquin Valley, is critically important to wintering waterfowl, and attracts large concentrations of ducks, geese, and lesser sandhill cranes. Over 2,000 acres of seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands are extensively managed to produce natural waterfowl food plants such as wild millet and swamp timothy. Thousands of ducks (primarily pintails), green-winged teal, and an impressive variety of shorebirds and wading birds, use the wetland habitat. The refuge hosts up to 15,000 lesser sandhill cranes, the largest population in the Central Valley. Peak populations occur during November. A mixture of up to 100,000 geese (Ross', snow, white-fronted, and cackling Canada geese) use refuge marsh and croplands during November to March.

Map of Merced NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 37.223221, -120.687561



  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Automobile tour routes on the Complex enable visitors to experience the diverse assortment of wildlife that call the refuges home. The San Luis refuge has a 5-mile Tule Elk Tour Route that takes visitors around an enclosed herd of over 50 tule elk. Interpretive panels along the way tell the successful story of the tule elks' struggle against extinction. A 12-mile Waterfowl Tour Route at the San Luis refuge provides viewers the opportunity to see the vast numbers of ducks and geese that make the refuge their winter home.

  • Hiking

    Nature trails are open daily from one half-hour before sunrise to one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

  • Historic Sites

    The Complex acts as an important outdoor laboratory for schools visiting on field trips. By exploring refuge units, classes of all grade levels integrate the natural world into their classroom lessons. Field trips are by appointment only and can be tailored to specific subject matter. Many interpretive amenities throughout the Complex help visitors understand the importance of the Valley wildlife. Look for information kiosks, elevated viewing platforms, and interpretive panels along the auto tour routes and nature trails.

  • Hunting

    The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex has a longstanding waterfowl hunting program. The various units of the Complex offer diverse opportunities for waterfowl hunting, such as free-roam, hunting from blinds, and hunting by boat. The hunting program is cooperatively administered by the California Department of Fish and Game. Information about seasons and bag limits, license and stamp requirements can be found in annual federal and state regulations.



Merced Refuge can be reached by driving eight miles south of Merced on State Highway 59 and then eight miles west on Sandy Mush Road.

Phone Numbers


(209) 829-3508