California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Bay Delta Region

Main Office
  7329 Silverado Trail
  Napa, CA 94558
  (707) 944-5500

Stockton Office
  2109 Arch Airport Rd
  Stockton, CA 95206
  (209) 234-3420

Regional Manager:
Scott Wilson

Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour Program at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve

(a.k.a. Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve)

Photo of four cranes taking flight

CDFW invites you to come out on a tour, in Lodi, during the “Season of the Sandhill Crane." The season begins with the arrival of the sandhill cranes into the Delta and Central Valley in about late September, where they will spend the fall and winter months. Tours consist of viewing sandhill cranes and other unique wintering waterfowl, hearing a presentation on sandhill cranes and their Reserve habitat, and viewing the cranes' impressive, nightly behaviors at a location that is only open to the public during these special tours.

NOTE: It is required that you pre-register for your tour as tour sized is limited to 30 people and there are no accommodations for drop-ins at the tour site.

  • Online registration for sandhill crane tours will open during the month of August and will be offered monthly throughout the season. A registration window will open approximately six weeks before each month's tour. The following schedule shows the registration window for each month.

    Tours scheduled for this month May be booked starting
    October Mid-August
    November Mid-September
    December Mid-October
    January Mid-November
    February Mid-December

    You may want to register early as tours fill quickly. Check out other information about tours and sandhill cranes below. We look forward to visiting with you this year during the “Season of the Sandhill Crane."
  • Visiting Woodbridge ER on your own

Crane Tour Details

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is divided into two parcels, known as the South Site and North Site. Tours meet 90 minutes before sunset at the South Site where docent guides meet attendees and give a presentation. Tours involve very little walking so you may want to bring a camp chair if you would like to sit and view the birds. It is recommended that you dress warmly, especially during the winter months as it can be damp and chilly. It is suggested that you bring binoculars and/or spotting scopes for up-close viewing but, you can easily enjoy the cranes with unaided eyes and ears. You may want to bring a light snack and water for your tour.

Guides may take tour groups down Woodbridge Road via car caravan to see cranes and other wildlife using the grainfields and marshes along the road. Your docent guides are trained in crane ecology, the area's natural history and the Reserve's habitat management, and want your experience to be memorable and educational. Tours usually conclude a half hour after sunset with the anticipated fly-in of the cranes at the North Site where a viewing shelter allows us to be hidden from the incoming birds.

Cranes will be the focus of our tours as they may be observed here under most but not all conditions; however, we will also scout for other birds that use the reserve during the winter months.

  • Directions to South Site (starting point for CDFW docent-led crane tours):
    The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve / Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve is 45 minutes driving time from downtown Sacramento or 30 minutes from Stockton.
    • From Sacramento, take Interstate 5 south exit on Peltier Road. Turn left under I-5 to the frontage road which is Thornton Road. Turn right (south) on Thornton Road and travel 2 miles to Woodbridge Road. Look for sign “Phil & Marilyn Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve.” Turn right (west) on Woodbridge Road and continue 2.5 miles to a pullout on left side of road. This is the South unit of Reserve, our meeting area. The tours will begin here with docent introduction.
    • From Lodi, SF Bay Area via Hwy 12, Stockton or Los Angeles head north on Interstate 5 and exit on Turner Road. Go left (north) on frontage road which is Thornton Road 1 mile to Woodbridge Road. Look for sign “Phil & Marilyn Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve.” Turn left (west) on Woodbridge Road and continue 2.5 miles to a pullout on left side of road. This is the South unit of Reserve, our meeting area. The tours will begin here with docent introduction.

When are the tours?

Tours to both South and North units of the reserve are held the first three weekends of each month from October through February, with exception of the Lodi Crane Festival weekend when tours vary throughout the weekend and require separate pre-registration. The Crane Wetland Tours begin 90 minutes before sunset and last approximately 2 hours. Pre-registration is required. We encourage you to stay until a docent organizes a caravan back to Woodbridge Road at one half hour after sunset as headlights can disturb landing cranes and other birds. For a complete listing of tour dates and start times go to tour registration link.

Please note: If you are planning for a group of 15 or more it is advisable to call well ahead and speak to a program docent for best accommodation. The crane program number is (209) 234-3435 or email contact is CraneTours@wildlife.ca.gov

Are children allowed on tours?

Tours are family oriented, so children are welcome to come.

Are pets allowed?

Pets are allowed as long as they stay inside a vehicle. Pets have the potential to scare cranes away, and we want to respect those folks who do not like or may be frightened by animals.

How do I register for a tour?

Go to the Tour Registration page and follow the prompts given on the registration site. A confirmation letter will be automatically sent to you via email once you have completed your registration.

Are tours Wheelchair Accessible?

These tours are wheelchair accessible. Viewing is available adjacent to the parking lot at both sites and involves very little walking. A short concrete ramp will take you to the top of the South Site viewing mound. At the north site, diabled parking is available right next to the viewing shelter. Please let your docent guide know if you have any special needs when you arrive for your tour.

Are tours still conducted even when it is raining?

Tours go rain or shine as the birds don't seem to mind a bit of extra moisture. Cancellations are very rare and would only occur when weather is expected to be very extreme. The cranes exhibit animated behaviors during rain and storm events so this time often makes for a very good tour experience. Be sure to bring appropriate clothing for the wet weather.

Do you have to go on a tour to see the Sandhill Cranes?

The South site of the Reserve is open to the public and you can visit the site anytime, day or evening (see Visiting Woodbridge ER on your own). You might like to explore further west on Woodbridge Road to see cranes and other birds feeding in surrounding farm fields (Woodbridge Road dead ends within 6 miles). If you choose to drive down the road looking at all the activity, we would ask that you please stay in your cars. Woodbridge road is a working farm road and during the fall large grain trucks move rather quickly down the narrow road. Your safety is very important to us and we would recommend the use of emergency flashers if you are moving slowly or pulled over on the road. Again, sunset is the prime viewing opportunity for “crane fly-in” during the fall / winter season.

Please note: the North site of the Reserve which includes the crane viewing shelter, can only be visited on a docent led tour. There is no trespassing into the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve / Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve or onto the properties along Woodbridge Road.

Are there restrooms at the Reserve?

Portable toilets are available for use at both North and South Woodbridge Ecological Reserve. The portable toilet located at the North Unit (accessible with tour registration and participation only) is larger to accommodate wheelchair access as may be needed. Also, en route to Woodbridge Road or upon departure it may be advisable to stop for comfort in Flag City which is located just South at the junction of Highways 5 and 12.

Is the West Nile Virus a threat?

We are not aware of any cases of this virus in the Woodbridge area, but since mosquitoes use the wetlands along Woodbridge Road, we encourage attendees to bring bug repellent. The San Joaquin Mosquito and Vector Control has provided us with plenty of mosquito “wipes” and spray should you forget to bring some of your own.

Are there other wildlife viewing opportunities?

Does Lodi provide any other places to visit?

Lodi's revitalized downtown offers many movies, restaurants, and shops. A wide choice of lodgings and wineries make for a wonderful extended stay. Other great local places to bird watch include Cosumnes River Preserve, Lodi Lake Nature Trail, Reservoirs in the nearby foothills, and boating opportunities in the Delta. Please visit www.visitlodi.com for more detailed information.

Still have questions?

Please feel free to call (209) 234-3435 or email CraneTours@wildlife.ca.gov and a volunteer docent will answer your question as soon as possible.