School is out, summer is here and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is encouraging families to spend time enjoying the outdoors. With long, hot days ahead, parents may be looking for family activities to keep school-age kids active and engaged during summer break. California is home to some of the world’s most iconic landscapes, where outdoor activities and educational opportunities can be found in nearly every corner of the state.
“State wildlife areas and ecological reserves offer unique opportunities for outdoor education — whether catching a trout in a mountain stream or simply enjoying a spectacular sunset in the midst of some of the state’s most pristine and valued wild places,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “It’s important for children to know these places exist and that they share in the responsibility of the future of these lands through responsible recreation and stewardship.”
CDFW manages more than 900,000 acres of land statewide specifically designated as wildlife areas and ecological reserves that host abundant opportunities to get outdoors and explore natural places. Although the primary purpose of these lands is to secure and protect wildlife habitat, the public may visit, learn about and responsibly enjoy recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, bicycling and wildlife viewing on many of these areas during the summer. There are also hunting opportunities available on many of these properties in the fall and winter months.
For those who have not spent much time in the outdoors, visiting a wildlife area and ecological reserve is an easy introduction to outdoor activities. Because of the wide distribution of these areas, they can usually be found close to home and the entry fees are very affordable. In many cases, there is staff available to answer questions and provide informative tours. Some areas have visitor centers that offer wildlife learning opportunities through displays and exhibits.
Visit the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov and click on the state map to find the region you are interested in visiting, and then click on Wildlife Areas/Ecological Reserves. Close attention should be paid to any special restrictions — some areas require the purchase of a day pass — so carry some cash for parking. All areas are unique in the types of activities that are allowed.
Here are some suggestions to ensure an enjoyable outdoor experience:
• Research the area before you go
• Know the regulations before visiting
• Let friends or other family members know where you will be and for how long
• Dress for the weather; layering clothes may be necessary for sun protection or cool mornings
• Bring plenty of water and carry a daypack for food and snacks
• If planning to hike with young children – keep it short. Avoid strenuous activities during the heat of the day
• Wildlife areas have bugs, so be aware of mosquitos, ticks and the possible bee sting. Carry a small first aid kit and use sunscreen
Some general guidelines should be followed while visiting wildlife areas:
• Do not feed wildlife
• Dispose of trash properly – if no trash receptacle is available, carry trash out of the area
• Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them
• Enjoy these areas responsibly and remember you are in wildlife habitat
For more information about wildlife areas and ecological reserves, visit the CDFW Lands Program at www.dfg.ca.gov/lands.