Consumnes River Preserve-In Search of Sandhill Cranes

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Click here to watch a short video of the Sandhill Cranes and more

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Today’s club ride meets up on 2nd St near the blue water tower in Isleton. It’s a city on an island along the Sacramento River Delta. There is ample free street parking with no time limits; water and restrooms are available nearby.

Bob is leading us on a no-ferries flat ride along the levees around the Delta to Consumnes River Preserve in search of Sandhill Cranes. The lunch stop will be at the Courtland Market in Courtland.

We exit town on 2nd St and ride pass all the brick & wooden structured buildings of Old Chinatown to H St and up to the levee on SR 160. You can see the results of the economic downturn here; the housing crisis has stopped many developers in their tracks. There are several lonely homes oddly situated in the middle of the barren fields.

We cross Tyler Island Bridge to Tyler Island Rd. The surrounding fields provide a rich array of colors in contrast to the brilliant blue sky; from golden crimson to rich browns and vibrant greens. Everything along the embankment of the delta is reflected and creates a mirror image on the water. It’s quite beautiful.

The immediate left turn on Race Track Rd has us all slowing down and some stopping to see our first sighting of a flock of Sandhill Cranes out on the open green field. What a fantastic scene to come upon. We also see a single white Egret standing in the middle of the adjacent field.

We continue on for the next 2.2 miles to the turn on Walnut Grove-Thorton Rd/J11. The flat 5.4 mile run along J11 takes us across a bridge pass orchards, farms, vineyards and freshly plowed fields. We also get to see bit and pieces of Walnut Grove on the way towards Thornton.

We cross under I-5 and turn left onto Thornton Rd into the Chevron Station/Subway for a brief regroup and pit stop. Food, water and restrooms are available inside. We head north on Thornton Rd/J8 for the next couple of miles;  passing through more vineyards, old barns/ranches, harvested field corn and orchards.

The road becomes Franklin Blvd after crossing the Thornton Franklin Bridge. The marshes and wetlands of the Consumnes River Preserve all come into view. We hop on the accessible trail and ride along the marshes; the views are spectacular and what a great place to watch all the wildlife!

You can see numerous species of ducks, birds and other wildlife enjoying the habitat that the wetlands and marshes provide during their migration period. They are all beautiful to watch! Their reflections in the water create a very unique image.  

We can’t stay here forever but I can certainly see and understand how bird watchers can spend hours doing this. All this natural beauty is around us; we just have to take the time to seek it out!

We exit the trail and continue on Franklin Blvd and cross over the railroad tracks to Desmond Rd in hopes of seeing more birds. Believe me, we are not disappointed! There are flocks of Sandhill Cranes in the surrounding fields and marshes. What an incredible and impressive sight to see! WOW! They are amazing to watch; such beauty and grace!

AMAZING! What a perfect day to be out here-LIFE IS WONDERFUL! We’re all watching the cranes and they’re probably watching us watching them!

Let’s not forget about them; there are also hundreds of ducks out here too! And further on down the road, there are yet hundreds and hundreds more of Sandhill Cranes in the open fields. WOO-HOO!

Someone makes a comment “It does get dark at 5 now”; that’s a signal for all of us to move on….and off we go! We continue on Desmond to Bruceville Rd. The terrain is totally flat with a couple of short rises here and there. We ride pass the Rio Consumnes Correctional Center and Franklin Field. Vineyards and orchards are everywhere!

The next 7.6 miles on Lambert Rd winds us through many vineyards and orchards; it’s the wine country here! The roads are nicely paved with minimal to no traffic. There are a few ranches and farms scattered around the area. The autumn colors are stunning!

We take SR 160/River Rd to our lunch stop at Courtland Market. You can purchase sandwiches, snack foods and cold beverages; water and restrooms are available inside. There is an outdoor seating area with a couple of tables and chairs; a long bench is situated on the opposite side.

After lunch, we head south on SR 160, cross the Paintersville Bridge to stay on SR 160. We’re going to cross the Steamboat Slough Bridge to Grand Island Rd. When we all arrive at the crossing, the drawbridge is up; BRIDGE IS CLOSED! Bob consults a map and there is another way to get to Grand Island Rd! I certainly can’t remember all the turns he’s telling us to do. The executive decision is made; everyone is to follow Bob. We all do a U-turn and go north on SR 160.

When we reach the bridge crossing at Paintersville, all traffic is at a halt. The drawbridge is up; allowing a fast moving boat to cross. We just wait and watch the double leaf bascule bridge close.

After crossing the bridge, we head south on River Rd for the next 6.7 miles. The surrounding views are fantastic!

We pass through the Chinese town of Locke, cross the Walnut Grove Bridge and head south on SR 160 to Ryde.

From Ryde, we take SR 220 heading west for the next few miles. We get more views of the delta’s rich agricultural farmlands.

The turn for Grand Island Rd is at the top of the hill at the T intersection. We stay on Grand Island for the next 8.5 miles; the road takes us along the river around gorgeous vineyards, open golden and green pastoral fields, old farm houses and ranches. I love the sight of open space and the rich autumn colors.

There is so much to see and we get to be out here on our bikes too; how great is that? What a fine day this is!

We are approaching the end of the ride; I can see the Isleton Bridge up ahead. Once we cross the bridge, we stay on SR 160 back to the water tower in Isleton.

Thanks to Bob for leading this marvelous ride and providing a cue sheet! WOW! The sightings of all the Sandhill Cranes, different species of waterfowl, Egret and Heron and other birds made this one “HECK” of a day! MAGNIFICENT! It was another splendid autumnal ride!

~24 people in attendance with 3 tandems

56.68 miles with a whopping 325′ of elevation gain

Weather: SUPERB! Sunny blue skies with just the right amount of morning chilliness. Temps ranged from the low 50’s to the low 60’s.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>KEEP ON SEEKING and YOU WILL FIND!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Follow this route sheet for today’s ride:


  1. So that’s where they go! They were flying over my head about a month ago while I was splitting firewood for the winter. (Which has now arrived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I think those birds may be smarted than I am.)


  2. Outstanding Nancy! THank you for the beautiful pictures for us to remember the extent of that manificient sight!


  3. What a great write-up and photojournal of a spectacular day! I am so excited that I can forward this to my family all over the country so I can share the ride with them! Thanks so much, Nancy!


  4. one thing pat and i remembered about the accessible walkway along the edge of the wetland, on the north side of Franklin Blvd across the road from the Cosumnes River Preserve visitor center, is that in the past it has had signage which prohibit bikes. It’s not intuitively obvious to non-birders, but in fact birds are more disturbed by bikes than they are by either pedestrians or autos. just how much they react became quite obvious, when we rode east along the path, which we did because this year, there was no sign prohibiting it. after observing the effect this had on large numbers of resting waterfowl, we decided that would be our last bike ride along that path. next time, we’ll be on foot, or we’ll stay bikeborne on the parallel road, which is quite a bit further from the water.


  5. Hi Nancy,
    What an amazing travel log through such a beautiful part of California. Your text and photographs are just so riveting. My children loved seeing the photos of the egrets, ducks and the stunning landscape. It’s great to get a history lesson too as we have never seen images of the old Chinese town of Locke. We are already looking forward to your next blog. Thanks for sharing!


  6. Chris,
    Thanks for sharing that bit of info about how bikes disturb the resting waterfowl along the path. Next time, I’ll do the same and walk the path.


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