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Birdwatch at Ravenswood Preserve in the South Bay

Feathery birds swing and swoop on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, surrounded by the Diablo Range and Santa Cruz Mountains. Seeing it all from a levee in Ravenswood Preserve makes a wonderful morning stroll. Combined with neighboring Cooley Landing Park, there are 2.2 miles of trails off Bay Road to explore. They’re mostly flat, with observation decks and benches to soak up the views.

From Cooley Landing Park, head west on a paved trail to Ravenswood Bridge. Cross to the wide asphalt Bay Trail, a great option for strollers and wheelchairs. To the right is a 0.1-mile paved spur to the southern observation deck. To the left, the Bay Trail continues north towards the northern observation deck. (Note: The last 0.5 mile to the northern observation deck is gravel.)

Both decks overlook the edge of the San Francisco Bay, where birds like the endangered Ridgway’s rail, as well as American avocets, ducks, herons, and egrets hunt the mudflats for food. It’s very beautiful and peaceful watching their signature birdie hops, bathing routines, and little chicks in tow. Bring binoculars if you can.

As you stroll along the Bay Trail, tides channel in and out of the yellow-green and soft brown marshland. Just 0.7 mile north of the Ravenswood Bridge is a newly built wooden boardwalk with educational panels and benches. The boardwalk transitions to a paved ADA-accessible trail connecting to University Avenue. 

This 0.6-mile boardwalk and paved trail combo was just completed in 2020, a critical missing link in the planned 500-mile San Francisco Bay Trail. Now that it’s built, bicyclists and pedestrians are connected to 80 continuous miles of the Bay Trail that link neighboring communities and parks, including the Dumbarton Bridge.

Directions: Ravenswood Preserve is located in East Palo Alto, just south of the Dumbarton Bridge. The main Midpen parking lot on Bay Road is closed through September 2021, but parking is available at Cooley Landing Park, 2100 Bay Road, East Palo Alto. A 0.3-mile paved trail connects Cooley Landing Park to Ravenswood Preserve. Ravenswood Preserve is open a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Cooley Landing Park is open from sunrise to sunset. No dogs.

{Covid-19 Update, May 2021} Please download a map on the park’s website before you go; paper maps are not available at the preserve. Please practice social distancing and wear a face covering when you’re not able to maintain 6 feet of distance. The restrooms at Cooley Landing Park are currently closed, but there is a wheelchair-accessible portable toilet next to the parking lot.

Story and Photos by Melissa Ozbek, @melissaozbek.

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