Honey Lake Wildlife Area
In the upper northeast corner of the Northern Sierra Cascade range lies 7,667 acres of sagebrush steppe surrounding Honey Lake, a shallow lake in the Great Basin Desert. This large, shallow lake, surrounded by alkali vegetation and agricultural fields, is a valuable wetland area which supports many migratory birds, including the beautiful arctic Tundra Swan.
The area is well known for large flocks of migrating geese, swans, and cranes. The northern edge of the lake is bordered by wildlife areas managed by the California Department of Fish and Game, Honey Lake Wildlife Area.
Notable species to look for: Large migrating flocks of Sandhill Crane, White-faced Ibis, Snow and Ross's Geese (check for the blue morph butterfly), and Tundra Swan fill the sky in spring and fall. Scan the ponds for waterfowl in fall and winter. Check for shorebirds during migration. Wintering raptors include Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, and Prairie Falcon. Lewis's and Acorn Woodpeckers are locally common in the foothills. Greater Sage-Grouse dwell in sagebrush habitat to the north of the lake.
Wildlife viewing and birdwatching are excellent, with opportunities to see hundreds of migratory and nesting waterfowl, birds of prey, and passerines, sandhill cranes, beavers, pronghorn antelope, and deer.
Hunting: Rabbits, waterfowl, coots, moorhens, snipe, pheasants, quail, and dove are all permitted in season.
Take the loop trip beginning at the Fleming Unit of the Honey Lake Wildlife Area, 89 miles from the I-80 and US 395 interchange in Reno. Start the loop at the Fleming Unit, the Wildlife Area headquarters. Check for birding information at the sign-in station. Register your car and continue into the unit to bird. Exit the Fleming Unit by backtracking to the intersection of Fish and Game Road and Mapes Road. Turn left (south) on Mapes Road /County Road 305.
Greater Sage-Grouse lek: The lek is north of Honey Lake off US 395 toward Alturas. Best viewing is from late February to early April. The birds leave the lek within two hours after dawn, so it is best to arrive before dawn. The weather is often bitter, cold, and windy. A scope is recommended, and a high-clearance vehicle is necessary. The road may be muddy and impassable at times.
Lewis's and Acorn Woodpecker stop: For a special treat on the return trip to Reno, stop at a dirt pullout on the east side of US 395 about 2.9 miles south of the Honey Lake rest stop and at the very end of the passing lane for oncoming traffic. The pullout is in a stand of tall pine trees on the left. Check the trees on the east side of the fence. Lewis's and Acorn Woodpeckers and Mountain Bluebird are often seen in this area.
Call Department of Fish and Game (530) 254-6644 for directions and information; also Lahontan Audubon Society (775-324-2473).
Facilities: None. The town of Honey Lake is nearby with all services available.
PLEASE NOTE: Area regulations are subject to change. Special restrictions on recreational uses, hunt days and methods of take are listed in the current year's issue of Hunting and Other Public Uses on State and Federal Areas, available at DFG offices and places where licenses are sold.
Precautions: From mid-October to mid-January hunting is permitted every Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday. On off-days access areas are also closed in order to allow waterfowl to rest. Birding during these times is limited to the headquarters area at the Fleming Unit parking lot and camping area and outside of the gate at the Dakin Unit.
Open year-round. The best time of year to visit the area: mid-October to mid-March is excellent for raptors and waterfowl. Heavy migration occurs through the area March through late April.
Directions (see attached map): At 2.0 miles Mapes Road meets Capezolli Lane, where Mapes turns sharply left. Continue on Mapes Road another 2.5 miles to the intersection with Galeppi Road/County Road 303, where the pavement ends. The entrance to the Dakin Unit is on the immediate left. Drive into the unit 0.4 mile to the parking lot (restrooms). Register your car at the information sign. Then proceed through the gate and follow the signs to Parking Lot 4 (2.3 miles) to access the wetlands.
Pets allowed on roads, on leash only.
Do not allow pets into the lake or wetland areas (to protect waterfowl and their babies).