Wildlife and Natural Areas
n centuries past, flocks of migratory birds darkened the skies over the San Joaquin River each winter, and in the spring countless Chinook salmon swam over 200 miles up the river to spawn. Natural areas along the San Joaquin River are now a fraction of their former extent – 95 percent have been lost. As a result, wildlife populations have dwindled, and Chinook salmon runs have disappeared from the main stem of the river.
Nevertheless, the San Joaquin Valley remains an important stopping point for birds travelling the Pacific Flyway between Canada and Alaska to places as far south as South America. Nestled in a vast working landscape, the San Luis and San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuges provide some of the best remaining habitat in the San Joaquin Valley for migratory birds and other rare and disappearing animal species. San Joaquin kit fox and riparian brush rabbit can still be found here, and restoration will soon return salmon to the river. In addition to rare plants and animals, numerous common animals make their homes along the San Joaquin, and they are frequently spotted by people visiting the river. The San Joaquin River Blueway will provide an essential backbone in rebuilding a corridor of natural areas where native plants and animals can live.